Effective April 7, 2015, the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act will be replaced by the Parental Leave Act (“PLA”) which broadens the scope of the Maternity Leave Act by providing parental leave rights to men.
This new law has caused quite a stir around the coffee cup. Going forward, this new law requires employers to provide both women and men with time off “for the purpose of giving birth” or adopting a child. So what”? Really, change in lingo isn’t that big of a deal except that the phrase “giving birth” also applies to men and the law does not guide employers on determining how this applies. The Massachusetts legislature clearly intended to provide equally protected time off for men and women when they are “giving birth” or adopting a child.
The PLA requires an employer with six or more employees to provide a minimum of eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for:
- The birth of a child;
- The adoption of a child under the age of 18; or
- The adoption of a child with a mental or physical disability under the age of 23.
First, male employees are now entitled to receive eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child. Much like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), in the event both parents work for the same employer, the parents are entitled to eight weeks combined – not each – for the same child.
Second, an employee is entitled to eight weeks of job-protected leave if a child is placed with the employee pursuant to a court order. This protected leave provision was not covered by the Maternity Leave Act.
Third, the PLA presumes that an employee with an approved extension of parental leave (beyond the required period of eight weeks) still has job protection.Take heart employers! The work-around for this presumption is to inform the employee in writing that the extended time off is without job protection and/or benefits. This notice must be given twice; prior to granting the leave and again at the time of granting the extension beyond eight weeks.
While the state law has language that exceeds federal law, employers should remember that if the employee is entitled to federal FMLA leave, job protection is required for twelve weeks, not eight.
So what’s an employer to do?
The PLA does not become effective until April 7, 2015. This gives employers just a few more weeks to get ready. Here are a few MUST Dos!
- Review and revise policies and procedures connected with providing leave for the birth or placement of a child;
- Review, revise, and re-post workplace postings regarding parental leave to reflect the amended law; and
- Train HR and staff responsible for reviewing leave requests concerning the amended law.
Until next time-
Keep Calm and Employ On!
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