March 21, 2019

Application period for paid leave exemptions to start in April

Employers that already offer paid leave benefits to their workers will be able to apply beginning next month for an exemption from having to collect, remit and pay the new tax intended to fund a state paid family and medical leave program.

The fledgling Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) plans to begin collecting a 0.63 percent payroll tax from employers July 1 to fund the estimated $800 million paid family and medical leave program launched so workers can more easily take care of themselves and their families without facing fiscal crises.

On Wednesday, DFML announced that companies that offer workers a plan at least as generous as the benefits provided by the new state law will be able to apply for an exemption starting on April 29.

Companies will have to apply for the exemptions each year, the department said. The applications will become available about one month after DFML releases its regulations for public comment, which is expected by March 29. The final regulations are to be promulgated by July 1, when the program kicks into effect.

The benefits program was created as part of the so-called grand bargain, an expansive law which the Legislature passed and Gov. Charlie Baker signed in June to keep issues like paid family leave, a sales tax reduction and a minimum wage increase off the November ballot. The law raised the minimum wage but did not feature a reduction in the sales tax rate.

The new 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.

Benefits will become available on Jan. 1, 2021 for workers seeking time off to bond with a new child, take care of a sick or injured servicemember or to tend to a serious personal health condition. On July 1, 2021, benefits will be made available for workers to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

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