Special to the Journal
The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has announced that workers eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) may begin filing certain benefit requests, in accordance with legislation enacted in 2018.
PFML provides temporary income replacement to eligible workers. Workers can now apply for leave for welcoming a new child into their family, for their own serious health condition, and for certain military considerations. Starting July 1, workers can apply for leave to care for an ill or ailing relative.
The program, which is offered separately from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and any employer-offered leave, provides up to 20 weeks of paid leave per benefit year to manage a serious personal health condition, up to 12 weeks to care for a family member or to bond with a child, and up to 26 weeks to care for a family member who is a member of the armed service. Massachusetts workers can immediately apply for:
•Medical leave due to their own serious health condition. Workers may take up to 20 weeks per year of paid leave to manage a serious health condition.
•Family leave to bond with a child. Family leave can be taken by a parent or legal guardian to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Eligibility for family leave used for bonding with a child is limited to the child’s parents or legal guardians, although certain other family members may be eligible to take family leave for caring for a child that has a serious medical condition. Workers who are parents or legal guardians may take up to 12 weeks of family leave to bond with a child. The annual 12-week maximum remains the same even if multiple childbirths, adoptions, or foster care placements occur in the same year.
•Family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition that relates to military service. Workers may take up to 26 weeks of family leave per year to care for a family member who is a current member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and who is:
*Undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious health condition that was received or aggravated while the patient was deployed in a foreign country.
*Being treated as an outpatient for a serious health condition that was received or aggravated while they were deployed in a foreign country.
*On the temporary disability retired list for a serious injury or illness that happened while deployed in a foreign country.
*On the temporary disability retired list for a serious injury or illness that existed before the beginning of the member’s active duty and was aggravated by service while deployed in a foreign country.
•Family leave to manage any needs that occur immediately after a family member is deployed in a foreign country or has been notified of an upcoming deployment in a foreign country.
Workers may take up to 12 weeks of family leave per year to manage needs which may include:
•Caring for a deployed family member’s child or other family member immediately before their deployment.
•Making financial or legal arrangements for deployed family member.
•Attending military events or ceremonies.
•Spending time with a deployed family member during a rest or recuperation period.
•Spending time with a family member when they return from deployment.
•Making necessary arrangements following the death of a family member who had been deployed.
Beginning July 1, Massachusetts workers can apply for:
•Care for a family member with a serious health condition. Workers may take up to 12 weeks of family leave per year to care for a family member with a serious health condition. For the purposes of family leave used to care for a family member, family members include spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents or siblings; spouses’ or domestic partners’ parents; and guardians who legally acted as a parent when the worker is a minor. Workers can take paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition regardless of where the family member resides.
How to Apply for Paid Family and Medical Leave at paidleave.mass.gov
Workers should give their employers at least 30 days notice before beginning their application for paid leave. Applications for future paid leave may be made up to 60 calendar days in advance of the anticipated start date. Unplanned leave due to an emergency can be applied for retroactively up to 90 calendar days after a worker has taken time off from the job. Workers should make every effort to schedule their leave for a time that will not disrupt the employer’s business.
Workers will need to provide or fill out the following documents as part of the leave application process:
•Proof of Identity. This is to double-check that worker is eligible, and make sure the benefits are sent to the correct person.
•Certification of a Serious Health Condition form. This may be done in conjunction with a worker’s healthcare provider. Workers applying for family leave to bond with a child, or family leave to manage family affairs when a family member is deployed in a foreign country, do not need to fill out a Certification of a Serious Health Condition form.
•Current employer’s Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN).
•A date when the worker informed the employer that he or she planned to apply for and take family or medical leave. (Workers filing for paid leave from multiple employers will need to fill out a separate application for each individual employer).
Benefit and Claim Information
Workers may not be paid wages or salary or use paid sick or vacation time or other earned time off that covers the same period for which the worker receives PFML benefits. Additionally, the amount a worker receives in paid leave benefits and the total amount of leave he or she is eligible for may be reduced by any wage replacement or disability program the worker is enrolled in or has used in the past, either through the government or through the employer. These include:
•Temporary disability or paid family and medical leave benefits.
Claim to Payment Estimated Timeline
•Worker completes Application on DFML website (20 minutes-1 hour).
•Employer responds to DFML’s Request for Information (1-10 business days). (It is in the worker’s best interest to let the employer know that he or she is completing the application because it may speed up the process.) Employers have 10 business days to respond but may respond sooner.
•DFML reviews Application and makes claim determination (seven-14 calendar days). Timelines are subject to the volume of claims received.
•DFML issues Payment to Worker (eight-10 days after application review). It takes three-five days for the vendor to be established in MMARs for the first payment, then another 5 days for the payment to be received. Timelines may differ based on the payment method selected by the applicant. Direct deposit is the quickest payment option.
Employer participation in the claim approval process is important to ensure DFML has accurate and complete information about the application. Employers may recommend to the DFML that a claim be rejected if an employee has already used the maximum amount of leave for the year or that information from the claim is missing, incorrect or fraudulent. Employers may not recommend a claim be denied because of budgetary, timing, or other circumstantial reasons.
For more information about eligibility, benefits, and how to apply, go to mass.gov/pfml. For multi-lingual support or if you have specific questions, call the PFML Contact Center at 1(833)344-7365.