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This page, Paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits guide, is offered by

Paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits guide

Paid family and medical leave is available to help eligible Massachusetts workers manage their own health and the health of their family members.

Table of Contents

Benefit calculator

Talking to your employer

Employees/covered individuals must inform their employer or the company they work for of their intention to take leave no less than 30 days before the intended start date of their leave. If 30 days' notice is not possible, employees should give their employer as much notice as possible.

Employers and employees should discuss and agree to all aspects of the requested leave before the employee applies for benefits with the Department. The discussion should include the start and end dates of leave, the schedule or frequency of leave (continuous, reduced, or intermittent), company policy and guidelines, if relevant, and the reason for taking leave.

Eligible types of leave

Paid medical leave may be taken to:

Paid family leave may be taken to:

  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition

  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth

  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after adoption or foster care placement

  • Care for a family member who is or was a member of the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves and developed or aggravated a serious health condition on active duty while deployed

  • Manage family affairs when a family member is on or has been called to active duty in the armed forces, including the National Guard or Reserves

Learn more about each specific type of leave in the sections below.

Additional Resources

About medical leave

Medical Leave provides up to 20 weeks per year of paid leave when you are incapacitated from doing your job due to a serious health condition.

How to apply

When you apply for medical leave, you will need a Certification of your Serious Health condition form from your Health Care Provider that includes:

  • Information supporting that you have a serious health condition and are incapacitated from doing your job
  • When your condition began
  • How long they think your condition will continue
  • Any other relevant details about your condition

Additional Resources

About family leave

Family Leave provides up to 12 weeks of leave in each benefit year. The 12-week allotment includes any kind of family leave provided under PFML: 

  1. To care for a family member with a serious health condition
  2. To bond with a child within one year of their birth, adoption, or foster care placement, or
  3. To support your family while a family member is in active military service

Additional Resources

About family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition

Family leave to take care of a family member with a serious health condition provides provides temporary income replacement and job protection to eligible employees.

Eligibility

For the purposes of leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, family members include:

  • Your spouse or domestic partner
  • Your children (biological, adopted, foster, through legal guardianship or loco parentis, and/or step-children, including your domestic partner’s child)
  • Your parents (biological, adopted, foster, through legal guardianship or loco parentis, and/or step-parents, including your parent’s domestic partner)
  • Your spouse or domestic partner’s parents
  • Your grandchildren (biological, adopted, foster, through legal guardianship or loco parentis, and/or step-grandchildren, including your domestic partner’s grandchild)
  • Your grandparents (biological, adopted, foster, through legal guardianship or loco parentis, and/or step-grandparents, including your grandparent’s domestic partner)
  • Your siblings (biological, adopted, and/or step-siblings)

Where your family member lives does not affect their eligibility. You can take paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition no matter where they are located.

Activities

When caring for a family member with a serious health condition, activities can include but are not limited to:

  • Providing the daily living needs that the family member cannot perform due to their serious health condition, such as helping them get dressed or helping with meals;

  • Providing transportation to the doctor or other facilities for appointments and treatment;

  • Providing support for their serious mental health condition, such as taking them to therapy or medication appointments for major depression;

  • Helping make arrangements for changes in care, such as a transfer to a nursing home.

Examples

You can take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition for a variety of situations.

  • If your mother is having a hip replacement and needs help getting to and from physical therapy, you can take reduced leave, and work fewer hours per day, or fewer days per week in order to help her.
  • If your spouse is having surgery followed by extensive recuperation where they won’t be able to shower without assistance, you can take up to 12 weeks of continuous leave to help them out.
  • If your child is undergoing chemotherapy and has bouts of nausea, weakness, and pain, you can take intermittent leave when you need to care for them.

How to apply

Once you and your employer have agreed on the dates and frequency of your leave, you should contact your family member’s health care provider to fill out the Certification of your Family Member’s Serious Health Care Condition form.

When you apply for family leave to care for a family member, you will need to provide: Certification of your Family Member’s Serious Health Condition filled out by your family member’s health care provider that states:

  • That your family member has a serious health condition
  • When your family member’s condition began
  • How long the health care provider thinks your family member’s condition will continue
  • Any other relevant details about your family member’s condition
  • You, the employee, are needed to care for the family member
  • Information about how often and for how long your family member needs you to care for them
  • The name and address of your family member and their relationship to you

When you apply to care for a family member with a serious health condition, you will be required to confirm your relationship with your family member and your right to engage your family member’s health care provider to fill out the Certification of your Family’s Member’s Serious Health Condition form. By signing the form, you are attesting that all information on the form is accurate. When you let your employer know that you need to take leave, you should also notify your employer of the nature of the relationship you have with the person for whom you need to provide care.

If the Department cannot confirm the relationship between you and your family member

Once the application is complete, the Department will review your application and may contest your family relationship if they have reason to believe the information is not accurate.

If this happens, the Department will ask you to submit documentation of your relationship to the family member whose situation requires you to take leave.  This can include but is not limited to:

  • A copy of a legal certificate, such as a birth or marriage certificate, or a certificate of adoption or other court documents

  • An affidavit attesting to your relationship with the family member whose condition necessitates you taking leave and is a covered family member under PFML

You can download the DFML Affidavit for your use here.

Your 12-week allotment

You can take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition regardless of any leave taken prior to July 1, 2021 to care for a family member. In other words, previous leave taken to care for a family member under another program will not reduce the 12-week allotment under PFML leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

However, if you took family leave to bond with a child and/or family leave to take care of family members who are active service members between Jan 1-Jun 30, this will reduce the 12-week allotment. In addition, for all types of leave, you cannot exceed 26 weeks total in the benefit year.

Some examples:

  • If you took 8 weeks of family leave to bond with your child in 2021, you would only have 4 weeks of family leave available to you to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

  • If you have already taken 20 weeks of medical leave in 2021, you would only have 6 weeks of leave available to you to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Additional Resources

About 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

Eligibility for family leave used for bonding with a child is limited to the child’s parents or legal guardians. Certain family members may be eligible to take family leave for caring for a child that has a serious medical condition. 

As a parent or legal guardian, you can take up to 12 weeks of family leave to bond with a child per year. The annual 12-week maximum stays the same even if you have multiple childbirths, adoptions, or foster care placements in the same year. You and your partner may choose to take family leave to bond with the child at the same time, or separately. You must complete your leave before the child’s first birthday, or the one-year anniversary of their adoption or foster care placement. For example, if your child is born on February 1, 2020, you must complete your family leave for bonding before February 1, 2021. 

Medical to Bonding leave

If you are giving birth, you could qualify for both medical and family leave. You can take your medical leave during your pregnancy, or after you give birth. Your health care provider has to certify that you need to take leave for conditions due to pregnancy or post-birth recovery that prevent you from working by filling out a Certification of your Serious Health Care form. Once the form is filled out and signed, you can apply for medical leave.

When you are ready to transition from medical leave to family leave to bond with your child, you can call our Contact Center at (833) 344-7365 to make that transition. You should not submit a second application. You must take your medical leave in relation to your pregnancy or after the birth before your family leave. This allows you to skip the 7 day waiting period once you begin leave to bond with your child.

You can take a total of 26 weeks of paid leave in a benefit year, with up to 20 weeks of medical leave, and up to 12 weeks of family leave.

Some examples:
Michelle is pregnant and needs to go on bedrest for the six weeks before her due date. Her healthcare provider fills out the Certification of your Serious Health Care form to cover her six weeks of medical leave for her prescribed bedrest, plus an additional six weeks of medical leave to recover from birth. As Michelle is nearing the end of her 12 weeks of medical leave, she calls the Contact Center at (833) 344-7365 to transition her application to family leave to bond with a child. She applies for and is granted an additional 12 weeks of family leave benefits before returning to work.

Ty is pregnant, and is able to work throughout their pregnancy. After giving birth, Ty’s doctor thinks they need time to recover from birth, and fills out the Certification of your Serious Health Care Condition to cover eight weeks of medical leave to allow for post birth recovery. At the end of those eight weeks, Ty calls the Contact Center at (833) 344-7365 to transition to an additional 8 weeks of family leave to bond with a child. Ty is approved for family leave benefits, and takes the eight more weeks of family leave before returning to work. Ty’s partner, James, applies for 12 weeks of family leave to bond with the child, and takes that leave once Ty has returned to work.

How to apply

As a parent or legal guardian, you can apply for family leave to bond with a child before your child is born, using your child’s expected due date. After your child’s birth, you’ll need to provide the Department with documentation the child’s actual date of birth in order to start receiving payments.

You can apply for family leave to bond with a child before the child has been adopted or placed in your home for a foster care.

To take family leave to bond with a newborn child, you will need to submit any one of these three documents:

  • A copy of the child's Birth Certificate, or

  • A statement from child's health care provider stating child’s date of birth, or

  • A statement from mother's health care provider stating child’s date of birth

To take family leave to bond with a child who has been recently adopted or placed in your home for foster care, you will need documentation from the child’s health care provider, or the foster or adoption agency confirming the date of the child’s adoption or placement.

For children born, adopted, or placed in foster care in 2020

Parents of children born, adopted, or placed in foster care during 2020 may be eligible for family leave to bond with their new child in 2021, regardless of the duration or type of leave taken in 2020. Leave may be taken until the day before a child’s first birthday, or the first anniversary of their adoption or foster care placement.  For example, for a baby born on April 1, 2020, the last day that each parent would be eligible to take leave is March 31, 2021.

Additional Resources

About family leave for family members who are active service members

There are two types of family leave available if you have a family member who is, was, or will be deployed.

Currently, applications for military-related paid family leave can only be made by calling the Department’s Contact Center at (833) 344-7365.

In order to apply for military-related paid family leave, a Contact Center Agent will guide you through the application. You can make the process quicker by gathering your required verification documents before calling the Contact Center.

You can 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, who is:

  • Undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious health condition that was received or aggravated while they were deployed

  • In outpatient status for a serious health condition that was received or aggravated while they were deployed

  • On the temporary disability retired list for a serious injury or illness that happened while deployed

  • 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

You can also take up to 12 weeks of family leave per year to manage any needs that take place immediately after a family member is deployed or has been notified of an upcoming deployment. These needs 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 counseling

  • 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

For both types of family leave, your application for PFML will need to include some basic information about your family member and yourself. You should provide:

  • The name and address of your family member

  • Their relationship to you

  • A copy of your family member’s Active-Duty Orders, a Letter of Impending Activation, or an explanation of other circumstances from their commanding officer

When you apply for family leave to care for a family member who received or aggravated a serious health condition while deployed, you will need to confirm your relationship to your family member and their serious health condition. To do this, you’ll need a Certification of your Family Member's Serious Health Condition form filled out by your family member’s health care provider. It is important that your family member’s health care provider fill out the form as completely as possible, especially:

  • Attestation by the service member's health care provider that the health condition is connected to the service member's military service (Form Question 17) This is the whole reason for your leave so make sure your family member’s health care provider is aware of this on the form.

  • The date on which the covered service member's serious health condition began (Form Question 16)

  • That you, the employee, are needed to care for the covered service member and what kinds of care might be needed (Form Question 19-20)

  • Information about how often and how long the covered service member needs you to care for them (Form Questions 21-29)

  • Your familial relationship with the covered service member (Form Question 8)

  • The name and address of the covered service member (Form Questions 9-11) 

If you are applying for family leave to manage needs that take place when your family member has been deployed or has been told of an upcoming deployment, you will need to provide the reason you will be taking leave and the requested dates of your leave.

Additional Resources

What is a serious health condition?

A serious health condition is a physical or mental condition that prevents you from doing your job for more than 3 consecutive full calendar days, and requires:

  • Two or more treatments by a health care provider (in-person or during telehealth visit) within 30 calendar days of an inability to perform your duties, or

  • Overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or medical facility, or

  • At least 1 treatment by a health care provider within 30 days of an inability to perform your duties, with plans for continued treatment, including prescriptions

Serious health conditions can include:

  • Chronic conditions, like asthma or diabetes, that stop you from working some of the time, go on for some time, and require going to the doctor more than twice a year
  • Permanent or long-term conditions, like Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or terminal cancer, that might not be curable and will need ongoing attention but will not necessarily require active treatment. For example, when a person is in hospice
  • Conditions requiring multiple treatments, like chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, or physical therapy after an accident
  • Conditions due to pregnancy or post-birth recovery that prevent you from working, as certified by a health care provider

  • Complications related to a diagnosis of COVID-19 that prevent you from working, as certified by a health care provider

In all instances where you are filing for medical leave for a serious health condition, you must provide certification from your health care provider by filling out and returning the Certification of a Serious Health Condition form.  In all instances where you are filing for family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, you must provide certification from your health care provider by filling out and returning the Certification of a your Family Member's Serious Health Condition form.

Cosmetic surgery is not considered a serious condition and is not covered for family or medical leave unless inpatient hospital care is required or unless complications develop.

Substance Use Disorder may be considered a serious condition covered by family or medical leave if the patient is receiving treatment from a health care provider, by a provider of health care services on referral by a health care provider, or by a program licensed by the MA Department of Public Health.

Additional Resources

Benefit amount details

The amount of benefits you’re eligible to receive for PFML is based on your own average weekly wage when you apply for leave, and the average weekly wage for workers throughout Massachusetts.

  • The part of your average weekly wage that is less than or equal to 50% of the average weekly wage for Commonwealth workers will be covered at a rate of 80%

  • If part of your average weekly wage is greater than 50% of the average weekly wage for Commonwealth workers, it will be covered at a rate of 50%, up to the maximum allowed benefit amount

The average weekly wage in Massachusetts in 2020 was $1,487.78. Fifty percent of $1,487.78 is $743.89.

Currently, any amount of your own weekly wage that is less than or equal to $743.89 will be replaced at a rate of 80%. Any part of your average weekly wage that is greater than $743.89 will be replaced at a rate of 50%, up to the maximum allowed benefit amount.

The maximum total amount that you can receive in PFML benefits right now is $850 per week.

The average weekly wage in Massachusetts is reevaluated each October. We will use that new average weekly wage to calculate PFML benefit amounts, which will start on January 1 of the next year.

Your employer and PFML

Your employer is part of the claim approval process, but they generally can’t reject your leave claim, except in some specific cases. Employers may only reject your claim if they believe: 

  • You have already used your maximum amount of leave for the year 

  • That aspects of your claim are missing, incorrect, or fraudulent 

Your employer can’t reject your leave claim for any budgetary, timing, or other circumstantial reasons. 

Additional Resources

What is a benefit year?

The benefit year is a rolling calendar of 52 weeks starting on the first week that you take leave through any leave program. It is calculated on weeks beginning on Sundays. So, if you started your leave on a Wednesday, your benefit year starts the Sunday before you started your Paid Leave, which is the beginning of that week.

Different types of Paid Leave have different maximum amounts that you can take per year, but even if you take several different types of Paid Leave, the maximum in one benefit year is 26 weeks.

Example 1: You had a child on January 1, 2021. You have another child on Dec 1, 2021.

Leave: You can take 12 weeks of Family Leave after the birth of your first child. So, say your first leave begins on Jan 1. 2021, then you would wait until January 1, 2022, to take another 12 weeks of Family Leave for your second child.

Example 2: A child is placed in your home through foster care on July 1st, 2021. A pair of siblings are placed in your home through foster care on November 30th.

Leave: You can take 12 weeks of Paid Family Leave to bond with your first foster child beginning on July 1st. You can take another 12 weeks of Paid Family Leave to bond with the pair of siblings starting on July 1, 2022.

Example 3: You have a major surgery that keeps you from being able to work from February 1, 2021 through the end of June. Then, your spouse has a child on January 1, 2021.

Leave: You can take 20 weeks of Medical Leave to recover from your surgery. You can then take 6 weeks of Family Leave to bond with your child on October 1st before you hit the maximum 26 weeks. You could then take another 6 weeks of Family Leave to bond with your child starting February 1st.

What is the 7-day waiting period?

In most cases, when you begin your paid family or medical leave there is a waiting period of seven (7) calendar days before benefit payments will start. You will not receive benefit payments during this waiting period. Also, these seven (7) days will count against your total available leave for the benefit year.  

If you have been approved for intermittent leave, the waiting period will be seven (7) consecutive calendar days after your leave begins, whether you take leave on those days or not. 

There will be a 7-day waiting period for each instance of paid leave you take, with only one limited exception: if a new mother chooses to take family leave to bond with a child immediately after taking medical leave either during pregnancy or to recover from childbirth, the waiting period for their family leave will be waived. The 7-day waiting period will still apply to their medical leave.  

During the 7-day waiting period, you can use your Paid Time Off (PTO) and are afforded job protection.

If you would like to use PTO after the 7-day waiting period, it will need:

  • To be used over a continuous, uninterrupted block of time and before or after your PFML benefits start or end date.

  • To be used only once during your leave period.

  • To be agreed to by you and your employer as part of your schedule before your leave starts.

For example, James is taking 10 weeks of medical leave to recover from surgery. Under PFML, the first week (or the 7-day waiting period) is unpaid so he is eligible to receive 9 weeks of paid benefits (partial salary replacement) from the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML).

James can choose to use PTO to receive his full salary instead of receiving payment from the Department during some or all of his leave as long as it’s taken in a single, continuous block of time. For example:

  • If James chooses to use his PTO at the beginning of his leave during the 7-day waiting period, he will receive his full salary during the waiting week without any impact on the total payments he’ll receive from DFML; he will receive 9 weeks of paid benefits from DFML.

  • If James chooses to use 2 weeks of PTO at the beginning of his leave, he will receive his full salary instead of receiving payment from the Department during that time, but will only receive the paid benefits from DFML for 8 weeks; he will receive 8 weeks of paid benefits from DFML.

In all cases, the employer and employee must agree to the leave schedule before the leave is taken and report the use of PTO to DFML so that the employee is not overpaid. If an employee receives payments of both PTO and PFML leave incorrectly for the same time period, the employee will have to repay the Department for the PFML payments received in error.

Contact

Phone

For questions about benefits and eligibility: (833) 344-7365

Department of Family and Medical Leave - Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Fraud Reporting Hotline: (857) 366-7201

Department of Family and Medical Leave - Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

For questions about contributions and exemptions: (617) 466-3950

Department of Revenue - Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Last updated: July 20, 2021
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