The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave has answered a question that employers in the Commonwealth have been struggling with in recent months concerning possible changes to the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Act.
As we have previously reported, qualifying Massachusetts employees are now eligible to receive partial wage-replacement benefits during leave taken to deal with a personal health crisis, bond with a child, care for a sick relative or covered service member, or manage an emergency arising from a family member on active duty. The benefit amount, which varies based on income, is currently capped at $1,084.32 per week.
Since the law was originally promulgated back in January of 2021, employees receiving PFML benefits have been barred from using accrued paid leave (e.g., their sick, vacation, and/or personal time) to supplement wage-replacement benefits received through the Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”).
Recent visitors to the Department’s website may therefore have been surprised to see the following message, posted on August 9, 2022:
DFML has recently received a number of inquiries as to whether employees are permitted to use their accrued sick or vacation leave to “top off” their weekly PFML benefit. Please be advised that there has been no change to the DFML law. Employees may not use their accrued sick or vacation leave in weeks that they are receiving benefits from DFML.
The message seems to be in response to recent actions taken by the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Charlie Baker with respect to the budget for Fiscal Year 2023.
In July of this year, some reports indicated that Massachusetts had enacted a budget which included a major amendment to the PFML Act – namely, that beginning in 2023, employees would have the option to use