Paid Family and Medical Leave exemption application process for employers

Massachusetts employers that offer approved private plans with paid leave benefits that are equal to or more generous than those provided under the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program may obtain an exemption from making family or medical leave contributions to the Department of Family and Medical Leave. Exemptions are only available to and intended for employers, not individuals.

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Applying for an exemption

Dec. 20, 2019 Deadline to file for private plan exemption for first quarter contributions

If you're an employer who is interested in getting an exemption from contributing to family leave, medical leave, or both, you will need to submit an annual approved plan application to the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML). The electronic approved plan application is available through MassTaxConnect.

Certain employers are automatically excluded and do not need to apply for an exemption

The benefits provided by your approved plan must be greater than or equal to the benefits provided by the PFML law to be granted an exemption. This means your approved plan must meet all the minimum requirements and must not cost your covered individuals any more than they would be required to contribute to the state plan under the PFML law.

The deadline to file for a private plan exemption for first quarter contributions is Dec. 20, 2019.

The Department will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis but applications must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they go into effect.

Employers applying for an exemption will receive an email notification within 1-2 business days indicating that a determination has been made. Once you've received the notification, you can log into MassTaxConnect to review the decision.

  • If the exemption is approved, you'll receive a letter with instructions listing the steps you should take next. Self-insured plans will also need to provide a surety bond running to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • If the exemption is denied, you'll be notified why it was denied. If you disagree with the basis for denial, you may request a follow-up review on or after Oct. 1, 2019. 

If you're granted an exemption because your approved plan offers benefits that match or exceed those provided under the state's program, your covered individuals will still be entitled to rights and protections. This includes:

  • The right to an appeal if their application for benefits is denied
  • The right to job protection during any leave taken
  • Protections against retaliation from taking leave or exercising other rights under the PFML law

Additional Resources

If you're in the process of applying for an exemption by Dec. 20

If you apply for an exemption on or before December 20, 2019 and are approved, your exemption effective date will be October 1, 2019. This retroactive approval is only applicable to October 1, 2019 PFML exemption applications.

For exemption applications submitted on or after December 21, 2019, your exemption effective date will be the first date of the quarter immediately following approval. For example, if you are approved on December 28, 2019, your effective date will be January 1, 2020. If you are approved on March 1, 2020, your effective date will be April 1, 2020.

If you are applying for an exemption after September 30, 2019 (the deadline for PFML workforce notifications), you should provide information to your workforce about the PFML state plan contribution rates, even if you plan to have an exemption effective October 1, 2019. Learn more about informing your workforce about PFML

You may also wish to notify your workforce that you are in the process of applying for a private plan exemption and that the details of the private plan will be distributed if you are eventually approved. If you are approved for an exemption after September 30, 2019, you must re-notify your workforce about the terms and conditions of your private plan and any changes to employee and employer contributions.


Last updated: June 14, 2019