Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Act

In 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Act. This legislation received significant media attention as the regulations were finalized. Now that the law is in effect, I want to explain Williams’ plan for conforming to its requirements.

The Act requires most employers to pay a tax that will be used to fund the state’s paid medical, parental, and family leave plans. The legislation also allows employers to pass along a portion of the tax to employees. When an employee needs to take a medical, parental, or family leave they apply to and receive payments from the state fund. This is an important option for employees of organizations that do not fund such leaves directly, or whose plans provide limited benefits.

Williams is not in those categories, and fortunately, the new law also allows employers like the college to continue providing benefits equal to or greater than the state plan, via our own private plan. The Williams Benefits Committee has assessed the relative impact of these two options (state plan versus private plan) on our employees and the cost implications. The process included briefings with the Committee on Priorities and Resources, the Benefits Committee, and the Staff Advisory Council, as well as discussions with the Board of Trustees. We have decided that the college should continue to self-administer leaves via a private plan, making a few changes to our leave policies to ensure that we meet or exceed the levels required by the new law. 

IMPORTANT: Please take a moment to read and acknowledge this Required Notice by October 1st.

Here are some highlights:

  • All fees, taxes, and expenses related to Mass Paid Family Leave will be absorbed by the college. They will not be passed on to employees.
  • Williams will continue to offer Short Term Disability Leave for up to 26 weeks per benefit year, in addition to Long Term Disability.
  • Paid Parental Leave will be extended from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
  • We will create a new Paid Family Leave Policy which allows employees to care for an ailing relative. Paid Family Leave will be capped at 12 weeks per benefit year (or 26 weeks per year for illness relating to the family member’s military service). We will expand the list of qualifying relatives beyond those eligible for unpaid FMLA leave. More information will be available once the policy is finalized.
  • When any support staff, administrative staff, or faculty member takes a Short Term Disability leave, Paid Parental Leave, or Paid Family Leave, the college will pay them 100% of their base earnings. This exceeds the state benefit of 80% of earnings capped at $850/week.
  • We will also create leave policies specifically for temporary workers and short-term visiting faculty.
  • These new policies and benefits will go into effect on January 1, 2021, when the law goes into effect.

The law was only recently finalized, and some time will be required to develop the new policies and ensure their compliance. Williams is fortunate to be able to meet or exceed state requirements for our leave benefits as part of our commitment to all employees. 

Human Resources will share detailed policies and FAQs as soon as they are available. We will also host info sessions where you can learn more about the changes. We will share information about these opportunities in the coming months.

Please remember to review and acknowledge the Required Notice by October 1st.