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Adjustments To Mass. Paid-Leave Law Being Proposed

The state is updating the rules for the paid family and medical leave program that's being developed to help workers more easily take care of themselves and their families without facing financial crises.

The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) said the changes include a handful of new definitions, alterations to the opt-in requirements for self-employed individuals and municipalities, tweaks to employer reimbursement regulations, changed intermittent leave provisions, and more. The department made a redline version of the proposed regulations available for review.

In an email after 6 p.m. Friday evening, the DFML announced that it had released a revised set of regulations for the new benefit program, for which a payroll tax is already being collected. The program is expected to start making some benefits available on Jan. 1, 2021.

"The Department is in the process of establishing dates for the required public hearings. Information regarding the public hearings, the comment period on the regulations and the manner in which the public hearing will be conducted (e.g., meeting location or virtual, etc.,) will be provided at a later date," the announcement said. "In the meantime, the Department is making this draft available so that stakeholders can review and provide informal comment. Commenting and/or providing other informal feedback now does not preclude anyone from submitting further or different comments during the formal comment period."

Part of the June 2018 "grand bargain," the paid leave law calls for up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, to care for a new child, or to meet family needs arising from a family member's active-duty military service. It also authorizes up to 20 weeks of job-protected paid leave to recover from a worker's own serious illness or injury, or to care for a seriously ill or injured service member.

The program is to be funded through a 0.75% payroll tax that the state began collecting from employers last summer. Though some have called on the state to make the paid leave benefits available to workers as soon as possible to help ease pandemic-related financial stress, Gov. Charlie Baker has said it would not be feasible to make benefits available sooner than Jan. 1, 2021.

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