PFML and Maternity – Bonding Leave

We’ve had several questions from clients in the last week about how the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program will handle maternity leave.  The PFML website has some good information about bonding with a child born, adopted, or placed in foster care in 2020 or 2021, linked here:  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/paid-family-and-medical-leave-pfml-benefits-guide#about-family-leave-to-bond-with-a-child-

Despite the information on the PFML website, lots of questions remain, particularly from employers with short term disability (STD) plans.  I recently spoke to 3 different employees at various levels at the Department of PFML, and I’ll summarize my takeaways below.  The following information should not be considered advice or predictive on how claims will be handled.  It is simply a summary of my notes from these conversations.  Specific questions about specific situations should be directed to the Dept of PFML at this phone number:  833-344-7365.

  • Maternity claims without complications typically have a 6 week duration on an insured STD plan.  If there is a 2 week elimination period, the claim will be paid for 4 weeks, absent any complications or other medical issues with the mother.
  • PFML WILL NOT ASSUME medical leave for the new mother.  A woman can take 12 weeks of leave for bonding, but that’s not necessarily in addition to a period of medical leave.  A doctor would have to certify that medical leave is necessary for it to be approved.  This is very different than STD plans.
  • The maximum duration of PFML is 26 weeks.  If there are medical complications for the mother and medical leave is approved, it would be theoretically possible for a PFML medical leave to be followed by a PFML family leave for bonding up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
  • If a new mother goes out on STD for her maternity claim without any medical certification, PFML will assume that 6 week window is for bonding.  PFML and STD will run concurrently, and as such, she would only be eligible to take an additional 6 weeks for bonding with the child (12 weeks total – 6 weeks on STD = 6 weeks left).
  • Even a birth by C-section will not be assumed to require medical leave.  Any medical leave will require certification by a doctor before the claim is approved.

PFML will also apply for children born, adopted, or placed in foster care in 2020.  Here’s some info from the link above:

For children born, adopted, or placed in foster care in 2020

Parents of children born, adopted, or placed in foster care during 2020 may be eligible for family leave to bond with their new child in 2021, regardless of the duration or type of leave taken in 2020. Leave may be taken until the child’s first birthday or the first anniversary of their adoption or foster care placement.

For example, for a baby was born on April 1, 2020, each parent would be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of family leave to bond with their child beginning on January 1, 2021, until the baby’s first birthday on April 1, 2021. If the baby was born on March 1, 2020, the parents would be eligible for up to eight weeks of leave beginning January 1, 2021 provided that it is taken prior to the child’s first date of first birthday.

 

As you might imagine, this has been a hot topic.  We recently hosted a round table to discuss changes in the PFML program.  I’m pleased to report that Abigail O’Connell from Sun Life has once again agreed to join me for a 2nd PFML round table, this time specifically talking about PFML’s treatment of bonding and maternity leave.  If you’d like to join us, please email sally@millbrookbenefits.com or click the link below to register.

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