Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML)

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The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) lets workers take up to 26 weeks of job-protected paid time off of work to care for their health, the health of a family member, or to bond with a new child. It is a Massachusetts state law.

In this article, learn whether you are covered by PFML, how to get and use paid time off under PFML, and what you can do if you are denied.

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Am I eligible for paid time off through PFML?

You can get PFML if:

  1. Your employer offers PFML. And,
  2. You are a covered employee. And,
  3. You have a qualifying event. 

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.

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 $6,300 in the 12 months before you apply for leave (for 2024).

If you are self-employed, you can sign up or “opt in” for PFML coverage.  

If you become unemployed and were covered at the time you lost your job, you can remain covered for 26 weeks.

When can I use PFML?

A “qualifying event” is something that makes you unable to work and eligible for PFML. 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 child or a child placed by foster care during the first 12 months after the placement or adoption.
  • 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 and has a serious injury or illness from their line of duty.

Ready to apply for PFML? See how to apply.

What is considered a serious health condition?

A serious health condition is a physical or mental condition that:

  • Prevents you from working 3 days in a row and requires you to: 
    • stay overnight at the hospital or
    • visit the doctors 2 times within 30 days of when you couldn’t work or
    • visit the doctor once within 30 days of when you couldn’t work and have a plan for more treatment like taking medicine.

Note: The doctor’s visits can be virtual.

Learn more about what is considered a serious health condition.

Who are my family members under PFML?

If you are covered under PFML, you can take family leave to care for your:

  • child,
  • spouse or domestic partner,
  • stepchild or domestic partner’s child, 
  • parent,
  • parent of a spouse or domestic partner,
  • Grandchild, step-grandchild, or domestic partner’s grandchild, grandparent, step-grandparent, or grandparent’s domestic partner, or sibling or step-sibling.

Learn more about who is included.

How much money will I get paid?

Your benefits are based on your average weekly earnings. They will generally be about 80% of what you make each week, up to a maximum of $1,149.90 each week. The maximum benefit amount changes each year.

The first week of leave is unpaid, but you can use accrued sick or vacation or other earned time off for pay during those days.

You can also use any accrued sick, vacation or other time off to “top off” or add to your PFML benefits up to your average weekly earnings. Learn more about topping off PFML benefits.

How long can I get PFML for?

In 1 benefit year, you can get up to:

  • 20 weeks of paid medical leave for your own serious health condition.
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave to: 
    • bond with a new child (after birth, adoption, or foster care placement) or 
    • 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.

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

How long can I get PFML for if I am pregnant?

Pregnancy and childbirth are serious health conditions under PFML.

If you are the birthing parent, you can get up to 20 weeks of medical leave for your own medical condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. Your doctor must certify it. 

When your medical leave is over, you can get up to 12 weeks of family leave right afterward to bond with your new child without a 2nd unpaid waiting week, by adding it to the same application. 

You can also choose to take the 12 weeks of family leave to bond with your new child at any point before their 1st birthday.

You can only take 26 weeks total of medical and family leave combined in each benefit year.

How do I apply?

Apply online at the PFML website or over the phone by calling the Department of Family and Medical Leave at (833) 344‑7365.

You can apply up to 60 days before the start of your leave.

Apply as soon as you have told your employer and 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.

You must apply within 90 days after your leave starts. Otherwise you may lose some benefits, unless:

  • something outside of your control keeps you from applying on time or 
  • you didn’t know about PFML. 
Can I take PFML and other leave time?

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.

Learn more about other types of leave you might be eligible for at Time Off Work for Medical and Family Reasons

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

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

You may be able to use any accrued sick, vacation or other time off to “top off” or add to your PFML benefits up to your average weekly earnings. Learn more about topping off PFML benefits.

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

Yes, you have job security. PFML comes with job protection. This means your employer must let you return to your job when your leave is over.

What can I do if I am denied PFML?

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 Massachusetts Department of Family Medical Leave Appeal (DFML) website.

Denial ReasonAppeal If
Financial EligibilityAppeal if you can prove you earned more than $6,300 in the past year and worked at least 16 weeks.
Late ApplicationAppeal if your application was late because of your medical condition, because your employer did not tell you about PFML or if you missed the deadline because of something outside of your control.
ID VerificationAppeal and send color copies of a photo ID (front and back) to DFML by mail.
Medical CertificationAppeal and ask your doctor to fix any missing information or fill out a new certification. Medical Certifications must be completed in full, with a specific beginning and end date.
What is the difference between PFML and FMLA?

Both laws cover similar situations. But,

They have different rules for who can get leave and which employers must offer their employees leave. For example, FMLA only applies to businesses with over 50 employees, public sector agencies, and schools.

Learn more in this video from the state of Massachusetts, or see their page How PFML is different than FMLA.

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Types of time off (leave)
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Learn what other types of leave there are at Time Off Work for Medical and Family Reasons.

For questions or more information
Time Off Work_PFML_More Info

Questions: Call Department of Family and Medical Leave at (833) 344-7365. English, Español, Português, and translation services for 240+ languages available.

Learn more at the Department of Family and Medical Leave website.
 

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