What To Know About The Mass. Paid Leave Tax — And How It Affects Your Paycheck

Download Audio
A mother walks with her two children along Still Street on their way to the park at Winthrop Square in Brookline. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A mother walks with her two children along Still Street on their way to the park at Winthrop Square in Brookline. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

You'll now start to see more money coming out of your paycheck.

That's because payroll deductions kick in Tuesday for Massachusetts' new paid family and medical leave program.

The estimated $800 million program will make it easier for workers to take care of personal medical needs or family members, or bond with a new child with less financial worry.

The benefits will be available to every worker in the state and affect every employer.

Here's what to know about the program and payroll deductions:

What payroll deductions will workers start to see now?

The new payroll tax is 0.75%. Part of that tax will be paid by the employer, and part of it will be paid by employees.

Workers will pay a maximum of 38 cents for every $100 they earn, according to the state. So someone making $50,000 a year could see a deduction of roughly $189 a year.

The worker contribution could be less than that if an employer offers a more generous paid leave package. Here's an online calculator the state has created to see your estimate.

What benefits do workers get under the paid leave law?

Workers can get up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a sick family member, bond with a new child or a newly adopted child, or manage family needs due to a family member's active duty military service.

Workers can also get up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave to recover from a serious illness or injury.

When can workers start using these benefits?

The paid leave benefits don't kick in until 2021.

Medical leave benefits and family leave benefits for bonding with a new child or managing family affairs due to military service will be available Jan. 1, 2021.

Family leave benefits to care for a family member with a serious health condition will be available starting July 2021.

The payroll deductions start Tuesday to fund those benefits.

According to Raise Up Massachusetts, the advocacy group that led the push for the ballot measure on paid leave, many workers are already planning ahead for these benefits.

"We've heard from younger workers who are thinking about starting a family and looking forward to starting their family in 2021," Raise Up spokesman Andrew Farnitano said. "We've heard from workers who are caring for an elderly family member, a parent or grandparent, who are looking forward to being able to take that time off they need."

What does the paid leave law mean for employers?

Employers have to begin payroll deductions Tuesday. These deductions were actually supposed to start in July, but were delayed to give businesses more time to prepare. Several business groups say companies are ready for the payroll deductions.

There are some business groups that are concerned about the paid leave program. Christopher Carlozzi, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Massachusetts, said the mandated time off will be harder for small companies to manage.

"When a new policy is passed that increases the cost of doing business for them, they can't spread it out amongst a couple different stores or throughout several different states as a way to deal with that," Carlozzi said. "It's usually that one mom and pop business that has to absorb all the costs and find a way to deal with that."

For businesses with fewer than 25 people, employers don't have to contribute to the state fund (though their employees will still have payroll deductions).

Will the state program be the only option for paid leave?

No. Businesses are allowed to opt out of the state program — with the state's permission — but they have to provide a comparable alternative for their employees.

There will be some private options for employers. Mutual of Omaha, The Hartford Financial Services Group, The Guardian Life Insurance Company and Prudential Financial all say they will offer paid family and medical leave programs that fit the state's guidelines.

"Our pricing will be competitive, and in some cases lower than the state offering," The Guardian Life Insurance Company said in a statement.

Leston Welsh, the head of products for Prudential Financial Group Insurance, said the company's goal is to give employers flexibility.

"We just partner with the employer, and the employer may decide to adopt a plan that's exactly like the state plan, and that's what we would price and support, or sometimes employers may decide to enhance those plans. And again, we would provide that support," Welsh said.

Are any companies opting out of the state program for a private plan?

Yes. According to the state, as of Sunday, there have been 831 applications from companies looking to opt out of the state program, and 608 have received provisional approval and are under review.

Christopher Geehern, the executive vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said many companies in his organization are exploring a private option.

"I think there's a sense that if companies can do this privately they would prefer to do that rather than going through the state bureaucracy," Geehern said. "So we'll see how many of those companies actually are able to secure a private option by the middle to the end of December."

Dec. 20 is the deadline for companies to seek approval from the state to go with a private paid leave plan.

This segment aired on October 1, 2019.

Earlier Coverage:

Headshot of Zeninjor Enwemeka

Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



More from WBUR

Listen Live