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Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) overview and benefits

Learn more about Massachusetts's Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), including how to apply, leave benefits, and approval timelines.

Table of Contents

What is Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)?

Paid family and medical leave (PFML) is a program designed to help people in Massachusetts take paid time off of work for family or medical reasons. If you are looking to apply for paid time off, you can learn how to begin an application online.

Massachusetts’s PFML law is funded through employer and employee contributions, and is different from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and from any benefits your employer might already offer. 

If you need to take paid leave, the first thing you need to do is inform your employer. Once you have done this, you are legally protected against changes in pay, losing your benefits, and retaliation. 

Additional Resources

Who’s eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave?

The PFML law covers most Massachusetts employees who have earned at least $5,700 over the past 4 calendar quarters. In addition, you must have earned at least 30 times the benefit amount that you are eligible for.

If you are self-employed, you may opt in through MassTaxConnect. If you have questions about your PFML eligibility, ask your employer.

Some employers are not covered by default-though they may vote to opt-in. Here is a more detailed list of organizations that are not covered by the PFML law unless they opt-in.

What can I take paid leave for?

Most Massachusetts employees are eligible for up to 26 weeks of combined family and medical leave per benefit year.  You can take leave for a qualifying reason.  A qualifying reason is the cause or event that makes you unable to work and eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits.

Qualifying reasons are:

  • Caring for your own serious health condition as certified by a health care provider, including illness, injury, or pregnancy/childbirth (up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave)

  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition as certified by a health care provider, including illness, injury, or pregnancy/childbirth (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)

  • Bonding with your child during the first 12 months after birth, adoption, or placement (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)

  • Caring for a family member who was injured serving in the armed forces (up to 26 weeks of paid family leave)

  • Managing affairs while a family member is on active duty (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)

A benefit year is 52 weeks starting on the Sunday prior to the first day of paid leave through any leave program. You can take more than one kind of leave in a benefit year, but the maximum amount of paid leave you can take in a benefit year is 26 weeks. 

There are several different kinds of leaves you might take depending on your circumstances. Learn more about different types of leave here, including what you will need to prepare to apply for each. 

In addition, the PFML program provides flexibility in how you schedule your leave. You can take it all at once or a few days at a time per week. Learn more about what kinds of schedules PFML accommodates here

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 days. It requires one of the following:

  • Overnight stay in a medical facility
  • 2 or more treatments by a health care provider within 30 days of whatever prevented you from doing your job
  • At least 1 treatment by a health care provider within 30 days of whatever prevented you from doing your job, with plans for continued treatment, including prescriptions

How much will I get paid?

The easiest way to see how much you will get from paid leave is to use this calculator to estimate your weekly benefits.

Your benefits payment is based on your individual average weekly wage, the state average weekly wage for Massachusetts workers, and the type of leave you are taking. The maximum weekly benefit is $1,084.31. 

Your leave may also be affected by other benefits programs such as unemployment or workers’ compensation or if your leave crosses calendar years.

Also, your weekly benefit amount may be affected if you work part time, or if you take reduced or intermittent leave. For example, if you work an average of 20 hours per week and you take 40 hours of leave, that is 2 weeks of leave. However, if you work 40 hours a week and take 40 hours of leave, that’s only 1 week of leave. 

Additional Resources

When should I start my application?

You can apply for paid leave starting 60 days before your leave would actually start. Try to notify your employer at least 30 days ahead of time. 

However, it may also be that you need to take leave suddenly and unexpectedly. In those cases, you can apply for paid leave after you began taking time off from your job. This is called retroactive leave.

If you apply for retroactive paid leave, your benefits may be reduced if:

  • You’re applying more than 90 days after your leave began
  • You were still being paid by your employer during your leave
  • You used another leave program, such as your vacation time or sick leave
  • You received another wage replacement from the government, such as unemployment benefits, during that time

Note that if you're applying for retroactive leave, you will need to know the date that your leave began.

What will I need to begin my application?

Notify your employer

Begin by speaking with your employer about when you need to take leave. Try to provide at least 30 days notice before your official start date, if possible.

Then, you can create an account on paidleave.mass.gov and apply online. 

If you’re applying for military-related leave, are self-employed, or unemployed, please call the Department's Contact Center at (833) 344-7365 to get started.

Collect information about your leave

While filling out your application, you’ll be asked for:

  • The reason you're taking leave
  • The date you notified your employer that you need to take leave
  • The date when you are planning to take leave, or when your leave started

Gather documents and personal information

  • Proof of ID, such as a driver’s license or state ID. You can provide a copy of this document online or through the mail.
  • Your bank account information, including your bank's routing number
  • A phone number that can receive text messages (SMS), if you want to enable multi-factor authentication
  • Information from your health care provider about the serious medical condition you or your family member is experiencing
  • Your employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • If you're applying for family leave, you may need information about your child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement

Read more about the documents you may need here.

Find your employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN, or sometimes just EIN)

Your EIN is a unique number assigned to your employer so that the Internal Revenue Service can identify it, and for tax purposes.

You can find your employer’s EIN on a W-2 form. It will be in Box B, right above your employer’s name and address. EINs are usually 9 digits with a dash after the first 2: XX-XXXXXXX. This number does not change, so you do not need the most recent W-2. 

If you can’t find a W-2 or have not received one yet, try asking your employer. We recommend reaching out to payroll, accounting, or human resources departments first. 

Application review timeline

Approval timeline

Within 5 days of you submitting your application, the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) will notify your employer. Your employer has 10 business days to review your application and provide additional information that will help DFML make a decision. While you are waiting, you can check the status of your application

Here is a more detailed description of the approval timeline and process.

It may also be helpful to review the issues that can delay application decisions or payments (and how to avoid them).

Appealing a decision

After we make a decision about your application, you have 10 days to file an appeal. You may appeal any aspect of a decision. You may be asked to provide additional information to support your appeal.

You can appeal online, or you can mail in the appeal form that came along with your denial notice. Here are instructions for mailing in your appeal.

You may request a hearing with your appeal. Hearings are virtual, and you may attend with a computer or smartphone. Read our virtual hearings guide to learn more about this process.

Additional Resources

Getting paid and taxes on benefits

If your leave begins in the future, you can expect your first payment 2-4 weeks after your leave begins.

If your leave has already started, you can expect your first payment to arrive 2 weeks after it is approved.

After that, you will receive payments each week. Learn more about how to check the status of your payments.

7-day waiting period

When you begin your paid leave, in most cases there is a waiting period of 7 calendar days before payments begin. Additionally, these 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 7 consecutive calendar days after your leave begins, whether you take leave on those days or not.

During the 7-day waiting period, you can use your paid time off (PTO) and are afforded job protection.

Benefit Year

A benefit year is 52 weeks starting on the Sunday prior to your first day of paid leave through any leave program. 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.

Taxes on benefits

During your application, you have the option to have state and federal taxes withheld from your weekly benefit. This preference cannot be changed once your application has been approved. If you choose to have taxes withheld, we will withhold 5% for state taxes and 10% for federal taxes. 

The IRS has not yet ruled on if your Massachusetts PFML benefits are considered “taxable income.” Without specific guidance from the IRS, the Department cannot provide you with any tax advice or additional guidance. Our recommendation is that you consult with a tax professional. However, you can learn more about how we're preparing for reporting benefits here.

 

Extending or changing your leave

You may need to update us with new information about your approved leave. Here are some common scenarios and how to address them.

Your payment information has changed: Call our Contact Center (833) 344-7365.

Report intermittent leave hours: If you are taking intermittent or reduced leave, you will need to report how many hours of leave you take each week by calling our Contact Center's Hours Reporting Line at (857) 972-9256. Do not report the hours you worked. 

Extending or changing your leave details: If you need to report additional income, update your leave dates, end your leave early, or extend your leave, call us at (833) 344-7365.

You will need to let us know that you are extending your leave 14 days before the end of your current leave.

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.

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