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PFML frequently asked questions for employers

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

Table of Contents

General information

Does the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) track the amount of leave taken or is it up to the employer?   

DFML tracks all leave that is reported and leave remaining in an eligible employee’s benefit year. It is the employer's responsibility to inform DFML about any leave time taken by an employee that would count toward the overall leave taken during the benefit year. This type of leave should be provided to DFML during the employer’s leave application review process.  

Do I have to notify my employee if an application is approved or denied?   

No. DFML will send out an approval or denial following a decision on the application. Email notifications are sent to the employee and your verified leave administrator(s) to let them know the application was approved or denied with a link to the employer portal where they can view a copy of the decision.  

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

There is no minimum period before an employee can take PFML. However, the employee must meet all the requirements through either current or previous employment.  

Application process

We are unsure of the 'start' date to use on the application. Is it the date the employee stopped coming into the office or the date they decided to file for PFML?   

The start date is the first day that the employee started their leave. If the leave began before applying for PFML benefits, the prior leave will be deducted from the employee’s eligible leave bank. 

Reviewing employee applications

How do I sign up as a leave administrator?  

Learn how to create an account as a leave administrator to review employee applications.  

How do we remove people who should not have leave administrator access?   

Learn how to add or remove leave administrators from your organization(s). 

Do I need to go to paidleave.mass.gov to complete documents for my employee’s application to move forward, or is the website only for employer verification purposes?   

You will receive notifications when the employee files an application and when it’s time for you to review the information provided by the employee. You then can go to paidleave.mass.gov to provide additional information regarding the employee’s application.  

Why am I not receiving email notifications about my employees leave applications? 

PFML email notifications are sent to verified leave administrators. If the verified leave administrator is not receiving email notifications, please check spam folder settings. Also, confirm that you have leave administrator access by logging in to the portal and navigating to organizations.    

What if a large employer has employees with the same name?   

The last 4 digits of an employee's Social Security number, date of birth, as well as a unique PFML application ID number are used to differentiate applications. In addition, there are other distinguishing case data points.  

Do the employer notification emails only go to one person even if there are multiple leave administrators, or do they get sent to all leave administrators?   

All registered leave administrators receive notifications.  

As an employer, what happens if someone responds that they are not the correct person in the organization to respond? Does an email get sent to someone else in the organization?   

Email notifications are sent to all the leave administrators registered to the employer’s EIN. If you are not the right person to respond, please refrain from completing the review process to avoid blocking the correct person from responding. DFML recommends forwarding the email to the leave administrator registered with DFML. In the employer portal, leave administrators can remove leave administrators who are incorrectly listed or no longer active. 

Sometimes employees who are no longer with us still appear under our FEIN. Will there ever be an option to state when they separated with us to close out the application or reroute it?   

If a former employee files a PFML application, you will be able to notify us as part of the employer review process that the employee is no longer employed and/or is employed elsewhere; you can do so in the comment section. Please note that former employees will be covered for up to 26 weeks after departure unless they start new employment.   


Paid time off and payments

What is the 7-day waiting period or week? 

When an employee begins their paid leave, in most cases, there is a 7-day waiting period before payments begin for each new leave in each new benefit year. If the employee transitions immediately from medical leave to family leave to bond with a child, there is not a second 7-day waiting period. 

The employee will not receive any PFML benefit payments during this waiting period. Also, these 7 days will count against their total available leave for the benefit year. If they have been approved for intermittent leave, the waiting period will be 7 consecutive calendar days from the first reported day of leave.   

Can employees receive paid PTO during their 7-day waiting period? 

Employees may use their accrued PTO during their waiting period.  

Do employees accrue vacation and sick time while receiving PFML benefits?   

It depends on your organization's policy, but an employer’s PTO policy may not discriminate against an employee for exercising a right to which such employee is entitled under the PFML program (M.G.L. c. 175M).    

Do employers need to provide health insurance while employees are on PFML?  

During an employee's family or medical leave, the employer shall provide for, contribute to or otherwise maintain the employee's employment-related health insurance benefits, if any, at the level and under the conditions coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued working continuously for the duration of such leave. This normally includes paying for whatever portion of the cost that is usually covered by the employer. If the employee usually pays a portion of their health insurance costs, the employer may require the employee to continue to do that during their PFML leave. Employers are not required to provide for, contribute to, or otherwise maintain health insurance benefits to employees who resign during a leave or are former employees when the covered individual’s family or medical leave commences. 

How is the benefit year determined?  

An employee’s benefit year is unique to them and starts the Sunday before their first day of leave and lasts for 52 consecutive weeks. Learn more about how the benefit year works, including what happens if an employee’s leave dates span multiple benefit years. 

Topping off PFML Benefits with PTO

What is “Topping off”? 

Topping off refers to the practice of employees using accrued vacation pay, sick pay, or other paid leave provided under an employer policy (collectively, “Paid Time Off” or “PTO”) while on PFML. Topping off allows employees taking PFML to supplement their weekly PFML benefit with their accrued PTO, up to the employee’s Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW). Example: An employee’s IAWW is $2,000 and they have an approved PFML application that pays $1,100 per week. The employee may top off that amount with PTO up to $900 per week, if available.   

What is the Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW)? 

An employee’s “Individual Average Weekly Wage” (IAWW) is calculated by DFML from the amount an employee earned in the last four completed calendar quarters before the start of the employee’s benefit year. The IAWW is the average amount the employee earned per week in the two quarters when the employee earned the most money (or the one quarter with the most money if the employee only worked in two or fewer quarters). The IAWW is an average and not based on just the employee’s current weekly wage. 

How do I calculate what the top off amount would be for each employee?  

The difference between an employee’s weekly PFML benefits and the employee’s IAWW is the maximum amount that can be paid out using the employee’s accrued PTO. Employers can view an employee’s IAWW and weekly benefit amount in the copy of the claimant approval letter that is available via the employer portal. Subtract the amount of the PFML benefits from the employee’s IAWW. The difference is the maximum amount that can be paid out using the employee’s accrued PTO.  

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

Will using PTO to top off salary during leave impact the employee’s PFML payments? 

If the employee is not receiving full salary from the employer in addition to the PFML benefit, using PTO to supplement PFML benefit payments will not impact your employee’s weekly PFML benefit and does not need to be reported to DFML. However, the employer is responsible for ensuring that PTO top off combined with PFML payments does not exceed the employee’s IAWW.  

Who has access to the employee’s IAWW and PFML benefit amount?  

Employers with a registered leave administrator can determine an employee’s weekly PFML benefit rate and their IAWW by accessing the employee’s PFML Approval Notice. If you do not have a registered leave administrator, you cannot access this information. Being actively engaged in managing your employees' leaves is essential to being compliant with PFML’s statutory and regulatory requirements and ensuring that your employees get the amount and duration of leave for which they are eligible. Your organization must have a registered Leave Administrator on file with DFML.  

Can an employer policy determine whether and how an employee can use employer-provided sick time, vacation, or other PTO to top off their PFML benefits? 

An Employer’s policy may determine whether sick time, vacation, or other PTO can be used to top off their PFML benefits, provided such employer policy does not discriminate against employees for exercising their rights under the PFML program (M.G.L. c. 175M). 

What happens if my employee gets paid too much?  

Employers are responsible for monitoring and ensuring that the combined weekly sum of employer-provided paid leave benefits and PFML benefits does not exceed an employee’s IAWW.  

Employers are also responsible for managing any payments made to an employee that exceed the employee’s IAWW. DFML is not involved in the repayment process for top off overages. This process is solely the responsibility of the employer and the employee.  

Can employers set smallest increment of leave use policies related to the use of paid leave under an employer policy?  

While the PFML law doesn’t prohibit employers from establishing smallest increments of leave under their policies, employers must ensure such policies do not discriminate against an employee for exercising a right under the PFML program. The DFML has established its own minimum increment of intermittent PFML benefits at 15 minutes. 

Does top off impact employees whose leave started before November 1, 2023? 

Ongoing PFML leaves that were filed before November 1, 2023, are not eligible to be topped off.  

What if an employee files an application for retroactive benefits where they have already used PTO for salary replacement?  

Employees may still file a PFML application, provided that they did not already receive full salary replacement. If an employee receives combined employer provided benefits and PFML benefits greater than the employee's IAWW, the employer is responsible for managing any payments made to the employee that exceeds the employee’s IAWW. Employees are responsible for working with their employer to make sure that the combined weekly sum of PTO and PFML benefits does not exceed an employee’s IAWW.  

As an employer, do I have to report back to DFML how much the employee used for topping off?  

No, it is up to employers to oversee the use of topping off and manage employee time while on PFML. Management of topping off benefits is between you and your employees. It is important to let them know what is offered and when, so employees do not report these benefits on their application for benefits.  

What should employers tell employees about their top off options?   

Employers should tell their employees that under the PFML law, they have the option to use their available accrued PTO to supplement their PFML benefits while on leave, up to the employee’s IAWW.  Employers may communicate that PTO use is subject to the employer’s PTO policy, provided that PTO 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). 

Note that all employers must display a workplace poster prepared or approved by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) that explains the benefits available under PFML law. Get posters, employee notices, and rate sheets. 

Can an employer offer employees Short Term Disability (STD) benefits that run concurrently with PFML leave benefits?  

Yes, PFML benefits can be topped off with STD benefits, accrued sick or vacation pay, or other paid leave provided under an employer policy, subject to the accrual and use rules of an employer’s PTO policies and provided further that the employer’s PTO 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 a STD policy provides full salary replacement, or tops off PFML benefits up to the employee’s IAWW, then the employee cannot use other paid leave to add to the top off without reducing the sum of PFML benefits.  

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

Consult your organization’s PTO policies. Employees may use accrued sick or vacation pay or other paid leave provided under an employer policy to top off PFML benefits up to their IAWW, subject to the accrual and use rules of an employer’s PTO policies and provided further that the employer’s PTO 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 organization has a private plan exemption for family leave and/or medical leave, does my private plan need to allow for top offs? 


Other income

We receive quarterly bonuses for the prior quarter. How should this be recorded?  

You do not need to report bonuses as other income to DFML when applying or during leave. Read more on bonuses here.  


What are the retroactive contribution requirements for an employer that has terminated a private plan exemption?   

For plans starting on or after Jan. 1, 2021  

Employers with an exemption that first became effective on or after Jan. 1, 2021 will need to keep the exemption in place for one term of four (4) consecutive quarters. If an employer terminates their private plan prior to completing the initial term, they will owe retroactive contributions back to the effective date and be responsible for providing coverage until the termination date.  

For plans that started before Jan. 1, 2021  

Employers with an exemption which was initially effective prior to Jan. 1, 2021, will need to go through one (1) renewal cycle to not owe retroactive contributions. A renewal cycle means an initial term and one renewal term, with each term lasting a period of four completed quarters. An employer that terminates a private plan prior to the renewal cycle requirement will be responsible to make retroactive contributions back to the effective date of the initial exemption for failure to renew.  

In addition, the amount may be subject to penalties and interest, and the employer may also be required to repay benefits paid to covered individuals.  

Contact   for PFML frequently asked questions for employers


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.

Last updated: September 12, 2022

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