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PFML frequently asked questions for employees

Find answers to your questions about Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML).

Table of Contents

General information

How do I create a PFML account or log in to my PFML account?  

Go to paidleave.mass.gov to log in to your account or create an account.  

When is the PFML Contact Center open?   

The Department of Family and Medical Leave's Contact Center is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For questions about benefits and eligibility, call (833) 344-7365.  

Does PFML take the place of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?   

No, PFML and FMLA are separate programs that will run at the same time if you are eligible for both. FMLA is a federal program that offers you unpaid time off and certain job protections. PFML is a state administered program that offers you paid family and medical leave and job protections, if you qualify. Learn how PFML is different than FMLA.  

Can I accrue vacation and sick time while receiving PFML benefits?   

It depends on your employer's policy, and you should ask your Human Resources department for more information. Your employer’s paid time off (PTO) policy may not discriminate against you for exercising a right to which you are entitled under the PFML program, however, your employer is not required to allow PTO accrual during leave periods (M.G.L. c. 175M).  

What is the 7-day waiting period?  

When you begin your paid leave, in most cases, there is a 7-day waiting period before payments begin for each new leave in each new benefit year. In other words, each time you apply for PFML benefits, there is a new unpaid 7-day waiting period.  You will not receive any benefits payments during this waiting period. Also, these 7 days will count against your total accrued leave for the benefit year.

If you transition immediately from medical leave to family leave to bond with a child, there is not a second 7-day waiting period. If you have been approved for intermittent leave, the waiting period will be 7 consecutive calendar days from the first reported day of leave.       

How is the benefit year determined?  

Your benefit year is unique to you and starts the Sunday before your first day of leave and lasts for 52 consecutive weeks. Learn more about how the benefit year works, including what happens if your leave dates span multiple benefit years

Can my employer mandate when the paid leave is taken?   

You should work out your leave schedule with your employer before applying for PFML benefits. If you don’t inform your employer within 30 days of your leave start date, or as soon as possible, your leave might be delayed or denied. You must also include the date that you informed your employer about your leave request in the PFML benefits application. If you meet all the program requirements and want to take full-time leave, your employer cannot refuse your request.  

Topping off PFML Benefits with PTO

Can I use vacation time, sick time, or other PTO while receiving PFML benefits?  

Check your workplace PTO policies and talk with your employer. In general, employees may use their paid leave (sick time, vacation, or other PTO) to top off their PFML benefits up to a certain amount, but you will need to follow your employer’s policies regarding earning and using time off. Your employer’s PTO policy may not discriminate against you for exercising a right to which you are entitled under the PFML program (M.G.L. c 175M). 

What does “top off” mean?  

Top, or topping, off allows you to supplement your weekly PFML benefit payment with your accrued PTO, up to your Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW). Example:  Your IAWW amounts to $2,000, and your approved PFML benefit pays you $1,100 per week, you may be eligible top off up to $900 per week, if available.    

How do I calculate my top off amount?  

The difference between your PFML benefit amount and your IAWW is the maximum amount you can get each week from your employer using your accrued PTO. You can find your weekly benefit amount and your IAWW in your approval letter, which is available when you log in to the PFML application website.  

DFML provides a calculator to help you estimate your IAWW and your weekly benefit amount. The calculator is provided for estimation purposes only and is not a guarantee of weekly benefits. 

What is my Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW)?  

Your IAWW is calculated by DFML from the amount you earned in the last four completed calendar quarters before the start of your benefit year. The IAWW is the average amount you earned per week in the two quarters when you earned the most money (or the one quarter with the most money if you only worked in two or fewer quarters). Your IAWW is an average and not based on just your current weekly wage.  

How do multiple employers impact my IAWW? 

If you have multiple employers your IAWW is calculated for each employer separately.  

Where can I find my IAWW?  

When DFML approves your PFML application, you will receive an Approval Notice. Your IAWW, along with your weekly PFML benefit rate, will be provided in the Approval Notice.  

While your application is still pending, you can use our calculator to estimate your IAWW and weekly benefit amount. The calculator is provided for estimation purposes only and is not a guarantee of weekly benefits.

If my employer has a holiday pay policy but I am out on leave when a holiday occurs, can I use holiday pay to top off PFML leave benefits?   

Consult your employer’s PTO policies and talk with your employer. In general, employees may use their available paid leave (sick time, vacation, or other PTO) to top off their PFML benefits up to a certain amount, but you will need to follow your employer’s rules about earning and using your time off. Your employer’s PTO policy may not discriminate against you for exercising a right to which you are entitled under the PFML program (M.G.L. c 175M). 

Will using PTO to top off salary during my PFML leave impact my weekly benefit payments? 

If you’re not already receiving your full salary from your employer in addition to your PFML benefit, topping off your PFML benefits with your accrued PTO won’t impact the weekly amount you receive from DFML and does not need to be reported to DFML. 

Can I top off PFML benefits with PTO provided under an employer policy that normally would not be available for the type of leave being taken?  For example, could I use paid sick leave to top off my family bonding leave benefits even where such leave is not permitted under the sick time PTO policy?   

Consult your employer’s PTO policies and talk with your employer. In this example, using sick time that you earn from your employer to top off family bonding leave might not be possible, provided that the employer’s sick time policy does not discriminate against an employee for exercising a right to which such employee is entitled to under the PFML program (M.G.L. c. 175M). 

If my employer has an unlimited PTO policy, can I use it to top off PFML leave benefits?   

Consult your employer’s PTO policies and talk with your employer. In general, employees may use their accrued or unlimited paid leave (sick time, vacation, or other PTO) to top off their PFML benefits up to a certain amount, but you will need to follow your employer’s rules about earning and using your time off. Your employer’s PTO policy may not discriminate against you for exercising a right to which you are entitled under the PFML program (M.G.L. c. 175M). 

Who monitors that I am not receiving more than my Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW)? 

Your employer is responsible for ensuring that the combined weekly sum of employer provided paid leave benefits and PFML benefits does not exceed your IAWW. Your employer is also responsible for managing any employer provided payments that exceed your IAWW. In general, Employees are responsible to work with employers to make sure that the combined weekly sum of employer provided paid leave benefits and PFML benefits does not exceed an employee’s IAWW. 

If my employer has a private plan exemption for family leave and/or medical leave, does my private plan need to allow for top offs?  

Yes.

Eligibility

If I am a new employee, how long do I have to work to be eligible? 

There is no minimum length of employment, provided that you met the other eligibility requirements for benefits at a previous employer.  

Applying for paid family or medical leave

If my employer has a private plan that offers benefits equal to or greater than PFML, should I still open a PFML account?   

No. You should contact your Human Resources Department for instructions for filing for benefits under a private plan. If your employer offers a private plan and you apply for PFML, your application will be denied.  

If I plan to use continuous leave and then use intermittent leave throughout the remainder of the year, should I file two separate applications?   

Yes. In most situations, using two different types of paid leave benefits requires separate applications.  

If I take separate leaves for the same situation, is there a waiting period each time?  

Yes. Each separate application for paid leave benefits requires a new 7-day waiting period. The only exception is when medical leave related to pregnancy rolls into family leave to bond with a child.   

Family leave to bond with a child

What is the total number of weeks available for medical leave and family leave for the birth of a baby?   

In total, you can take 26 weeks of paid leave per benefit year. You can split the 26 weeks between medical leave and family leave to bond with a child. However you divide it, you can’t exceed 20 weeks of medical leave or 12 weeks of family leave to bond with a child. You can take medical leave after childbirth or before delivery if your health care provider verifies you have a serious medical condition related to your pregnancy. Learn more about transitioning from medical leave to family leave to bond with a child.   

If I gave birth, do I need to apply for medical leave first or can I just apply for family leave to bond with a child?   

You can apply for family leave to bond with a child as long as it is within 12 months from the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of the child. There is no requirement that you take both family and medical leave at the time of a child’s birth. Whenever possible, the birthing parent who is eligible for both medical leave and family leave for bonding should apply for medical leave first.       

Is family leave to bond with a child available to both parents?   

Yes. Each parent or legal guardian may qualify for 12 weeks of family leave to bond with their child during the first year of the child’s life, adoption, or foster care placement. You can choose to take family leave to bond with a child at the same time or separately, as long as you complete the leave before the child’s first birthday, or the one-year anniversary of their adoption or foster care placement.  

Can I start the application process early?   

You can apply up to 60 days before your intended leave date. Estimated dates can be used to apply and modified as necessary.   

Can I split up my family leave to bond with a child or does it have to be taken all at once?   

There is no restriction as to how you split the time if it is taken as continuous leave as long as it is within 12 months of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. The last day of leave must be the day before the child’s birthday or placement anniversary.  If you want to take family leave to bond with a child on an intermittent or reduced schedule, you will need your employer’s agreement. Please note that if you split your bonding time, you may have an additional unpaid 7-day waiting period.  

Payments and taxes

Are taxes being taken out of the weekly checks?   

The IRS has not yet made a ruling on whether your PFML benefits are considered “taxable income.” Massachusetts tax treatment will follow the guidance provided by the IRS.  

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. These amounts are an approximation and what you owe may be more or less than what is deducted.   

If you later need to return funds to the DFML because of an overpayment of benefits, you may be responsible to pay the DFML the sum of state and federal tax withholdings. 

Will benefit payments be made weekly or every other week?   

Continuous leave benefit payments will be made weekly. For reduced leave, payment is made after you take your first 8 hours of leave or if 30 days have passed since the first reported leave. For intermittent leave, when you report leave time you will receive payment after it’s verified with your employer. Intermittent leave payments may be held until at least 8 hours are reported.   

If I’m receiving PFML benefits and I become eligible to collect unemployment, can I double dip?   

No, the benefits would offset each other. Your PFML payment will be reduced by the amount paid by unemployment. It is a dollar for dollar offset of benefit payments.  

If I’m receiving PFML benefits and I become eligible to collect workers’ compensation, can I double dip?   

No, the benefits would offset each other. Your PFML payment will be reduced by the amount paid by workers’ compensation. It is a dollar for dollar offset of benefit payments.  

Is there retroactive pay if my application isn't approved until later?   

Yes, you will be retroactively paid from the start of your leave after the 7-day waiting period if your application is approved.  

How soon will someone receive benefit payments once an application has been approved?   

Once your application is approved, you can expect weekly payments to begin 2-4 weeks after your leave begins. If your leave has already begun, you can expect your first payment to arrive 2 weeks after it is approved. After that, you will receive your payments every week.   

When you begin your paid family or medical leave, there is a 7-day waiting period before benefit payments start. You will not receive benefit payments during this waiting period. Also, these 7 days will count against your total accrued leave for the benefit year.  

Changing your leave

Do I need to submit a new application to extend my leave? Will there be another 7-day waiting period?   

There is no waiting period for an extension. You must let your employer know you want to extend your leave at least 30 calendar days before your current leave expires or as soon as possible. Go online to paidleave.mass.gov or call the Contact Center at (833) 344-7365 to request an extension at least 30 calendar days after your current leave expires. 

If you don't request an extension 30 calendar days after your leave expires, you may have to submit another leave application and there may be a second 7-day waiting period. 

If I'm on reduced schedule leave two days per week, can I change this later to be more or fewer days per week, or change to a continuous or intermittent leave schedule?   

You can always modify a current approved leave. However, it may require a new application and new documentation. The new application will be sent to your employer for review. Learn more about changing your approved leave

Contact   for PFML frequently asked questions for employees

Phone

Get answers to your questions in English, Español, and Português. Translation services for up to 240+ languages are also available. Call Department of Family and Medical Leave, Get answers to your questions in English, Español, and Português. Translation services for up to 240+ languages are also available. at (833) 344-7365

Department of Family and Medical Leave - Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Department of Family and Medical Leave - Hours of operation: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

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

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