How PFML is different than FMLA

Your business may have responsibilities under both PFML and FMLA law. Learn about the different laws below.

Massachusetts’ Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are separate laws that cover similar situations. Even employers who are exempt from FMLA may be subject to PFML and, as a result, may be required to inform their workers about their rights under PFML and to collect and remit PFML contributions. Further details on the differences between the two laws below are described below. 

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Type of Law

PFML is a state law that was enacted in 2018 and is funded by contributions from both employers and employees that perform services in the Commonwealth.  

FMLA is a federal law that was enacted in 1993.

Businesses Covered

All Massachusetts businesses may be subject to PFML law, even those that are not subject to FMLA law. 

Only businesses with over 50 employees, public sector agencies, and private and public schools are subject to FMLA. These employers may be subject to both PFML and FMLA, the same way they pay both state and federal taxes. 

Worker Eligibility Rules

To be eligible to receive paid leave under PFML, a worker must have earned at least $4700 in the previous 12 months. PFML eligibility is not dependent on how long an individual has worked for a current employer. 

To qualify for FMLA, an employee must have been with their employer for at least 12 months, with at least 1,250 hours worked over that time. Private sector employers must have over 50 employees to qualify for eligibility. FMLA also applies to all public sector workers and workers in all public and private schools. 

Employer Responsibilities

Employers may be responsible for collecting and remitting PFML contributions on behalf of their employees. In order to calculate the amount of contributions that is required to be remitted, it is important for all Massachusetts employers to determine their annual average workforce which includes W2 workers and those individuals paid through a 1099-MISC.  

There are no contributions to collect or remit under FMLA, since it is not a paid benefit. 

Under both PFML and FMLA, businesses must inform their employees about their rights and benefits under each law and must display a poster in the workplace that explains these benefits.

Benefits Provided

Starting in January 2021, PFML will provide Massachusetts workers with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paid family leave, up to 20 weeks of job-protected, paid medical leave, or up 26 weeks of combined family and medical leave in a benefit year.  

FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a calendar year for family or medical reasons, or up to 26 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a calendar year to care for a family member in the armed services. Employers are not required to pay workers taking FMLA leave. 

In both PFML and FMLA, employers are required to maintain the employee’s health insurance at the same levels the employee had prior to going on leave. Upon their return to the workforce, an employee who has taken  leave must be allowed to return to their previous position, or a position of similar responsibility and compensation. 

In both PFML and FMLA, family leave may be taken to:  

  • Bond with a newborn or newly adopted child 

  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition 

  • Manage family affairs when a family member is on active duty 

In both PFML and FMLA, medical leave may be taken if you are unable to work due to a serious medical condition.

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