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Paid time off work for serious health conditions or a new child

Produced by Greater Boston Legal Services
Reviewed April 2022

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) lets you take job-protected paid time off of work. You can take up to:

  • 12 weeks to bond with a new child.
  • 20 weeks to take care of your own serious health condition.
  • 20 weeks to care for medical complications from pregnancy or birth.
  • 12 weeks to care for a loved one with a serious health condition.
  • 26 weeks if the serious health condition resulted from active military duty.

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Can I get PFML?

You can get PFML if:

Almost all Massachusetts businesses offer PFML. But cities and towns do not have to offer PFML to their employees. Some religious organizations do not have to offer PFML.

Am I covered?

You are a covered by PFML if you are an employee:

  • With taxes taken out of your paycheck.
  • Who worked at least 16 weeks in Massachusetts. And,
  • Who earned at least $6,000 in the 12 months before you apply for leave.

If you are self-employed, you can sign up for PFML coverage. If you work for a city, a town, or other municipal employer, you probably not covered. You are covered if your employer opts in to PFML.

Note for new parents

If you are not covered by the PFML, you may be eligible for the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (MPLA). The MPLA gives you 8 weeks of unpaid job protected leave. Your employer can make you take all 8 weeks at once. To qualify you must:

  1. Work for an employer with at least 6 employees. And,
  2. Complete your probationary period. The probationary period can be 6 months or less. If your work does not have probation, you must work full time, for the same employer, for at least 3 months in a row.

You also have a right to 12 weeks of job-secured unpaid time off under the FMLA. See Your right to time off for illness, injury or a new child.

When can I use PFML benefits?

You can use PFML leave to:

  • Care for your own serious health condition.
  • Care for a family member who has a serious health condition.
  • Bond with your child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth
  • Bond with an adopted or child placed by foster care during the first 12 months after the placement.
  • Deal with issues when a family member is on active duty.
  • Deal with issues when a family member is notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces, or
  • Care for a family member who is a covered service member with a serious injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Who are my family members under the PFML?

Under the PFML a covered employee can take leave to care for their:

  • child,
  • spouse or domestic partners
  • parent or parents of a spouse or domestic partner,
  • grandchildren,
  • grandparents, and
  • siblings.

How do I apply?

Apply as soon as you have:

  • a medical certification of your own serious health condition,
  • a certification for a family member,
  • a birth certificate, or
  • a record of foster care or adoption.

Apply online at the PFML website, or call the Department of Family and Medical Leave at (833) 344‑7365 to apply over the phone.

How much money will I get paid?

Your benefits are based on your average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $1,129 each week. The maximum amount changes each year.

The first seven calendar days of leave are not paid, but you can use accrued sick or vacation or other earned time off for pay during those days.

How long can I be on leave in a 12-month period?

Up to:

  • 12 weeks of paid family leave to bond with a new child
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • 26 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member who got a serious health condition from active-duty military service.
  • 20 weeks of paid medical leave for your own serious health condition.

You can only take 26 weeks total leave in each benefit year.

Can I take PFML and other leave time?

You can use your earned sick time before or after PFML leave.

But PFML time usually covers the same time as other unpaid job-protected leave laws if they are all taken for the same reason. You usually cannot take one after the other.

Even if you are eligible for other job-protected leave laws like the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, they will probably cover the same time off as the PFML.

Can my employer make me use my vacation or sick time before using PFML leave?

No, employers cannot make you to use any sick, vacation, or personal time before or while taking PFML leave.

Can I go back to my job when my leave is over?

Yes, you have job security. Your employer must let you to return to your job when your leave is over.

What do I do if I am denied?

If the state denies you benefits, you have the right to appeal. The state will schedule a hearing. At the hearing you can explain why you disagree with their decision. File your appeal on the Department of Family Medical Leave Appeal (DFML) website.

Problems you can fix with an appeal:

Denial Reason Appeal if
Financial Eligibility Appeal if you can prove you earned more than $6,000 in the past year and worked at least 16 weeks.
Late Application Appeal if your application was late because of your medical condition or because your employer did not tell you about PFML.
ID Verification Appeal and send color copies of a photo ID (front and back) to DFML by mail.
Medical Certification Appeal and ask your doctor to fix any missing information or fill out a new certification.

I have other questions. Who can I ask?

Send questions to the Department of Family and Medical Leave at [email protected].  Or check out the Department of Family Medical Leave website.

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