As we reported on Wednesday in our client alert, Governor Charlie Baker and the Legislature reached an agreement this week to delay by three months the Department of Family and Medical Leave’s collection of contributions from employers, from July 1, 2019 to October 1, 2019. On Thursday, Governor Baker signed the legislation that implements that delay.
The three-month delay in the Department and Family and Medical Leave’s (Department) collection of contributions led the Department to announce an increase in the contribution rate from 0.63% to 0.75% of wages, and a new breakdown of that rate between family leave (0.13%) and medical leave (0.62%). The amounts employers may deduct from an employee’s pay did not change – employers will still be able to deduct up to 100% of the family leave contribution and up to 40% of the medical leave contribution from employee wages. Additionally, the delay will not impact the date employees may begin taking Paid Family and Medical Leave, which is January 1, 2021.
The Department has also delayed the deadline for employers to provide written notice about the PFML to employees from June 30 to September 30, 2019. We anticipate that the Department will release a revised notice shortly. Until that happens, employers who have not yet provided the required written notices to employees should hold off on doing so. Employers who have already provided notice will likely be required to provide the updated notice, with the new contribution rate. In the interim, employers should feel free to communicate the delayed start of contributions to their workforces.
The bill signed by Governor Baker on Thursday also appropriated $3.5 million from the General Fund to the Department of Family and Medical Leave for the upcoming fiscal year and made several other amendments to the Paid Family and Medical Leave Law. Among other things, the amendments:
- clarify that medical leave shall be available to an employee with a serious health condition only if that condition “makes the covered individual unable to perform the functions of the covered individual’s position,” a standard that must be construed in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
- confirm that leave taken on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis does reduce the total amount of leave available to the employee, something that was not stated expressly in the original statute;
- require healthcare providers who certify that medical leave is necessary to include “a statement by the health care provider that the covered individual is unable to perform the functions of the covered individual’s position.” This language is in line with the FMLA, and is more specific than the Department of Family and Medical Leave’s current proposed regulations, which require healthcare providers to certify “that the individual is incapacitated from work due to the serious health condition;” and
- require healthcare providers who certify that either family or medical leave is necessary to include “a statement of the medical necessity, if any, for intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule and, if applicable, the expected duration of the intermittent leave or reduced leave schedule.” Again, this language is more specific than the Department of Family and Medical Leave’s current proposed regulations, which vaguely require the healthcare provider to include “information regarding the need for intermittent leave, if applicable.”
Finally, the Department issued a notice yesterday regarding the PFML delay. In the notice, the Department stated that the final PFML regulations will be published on Monday, June 17.
We will continue to follow all legal developments concerning the roll-out of the Paid Family and Medical Leave law and will communicate news of interest to employers on our Law @ Work blog. Be on the lookout next week for our analysis of the final regulations. In the meantime, if you need assistance communicating the new changes to your employees, Skoler Abbott attorneys can help you develop the best communication plan and strategy for your business going forward.