MASSACHUSETTS MATERNITY LEAVE LAW AMENDED: EMPLOYERS OF SIX OR MORE EMPLOYEES MUST NOW PROVIDE 8 WEEKS OF PARENTAL LEAVE TO MEN AS WELL AS WOMEN; CERTAIN ELIGIBILITY AND NOTICE REQUIREMENTS ALSO CHANGED

by Attorney Leslie Lockard
The Law Office of Leslie Lockard, P.C.
P.O. Box 537
Walpole, MA 02081
Tel. 508 850-9800
FAX 508 850-9801
Email: Llockard@leslielockard.com
Website: www.LeslieLockard.com
January 14, 2015

The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) has just been amended to require covered employers (those who employ six or more employees) to provide eight weeks of parental leave to male, as well as female, employees. Before now, the law provided “maternity leave” to “female” employees; the law has now been amended to provide “parental” leave to “employees”. The amended law will take effect on April 7, 2015.

According to the wording of the MMLA, parental leave can be unpaid. However, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, in its Guidelines interpreting the MMLA, has stated that if an employer generally provides pay, benefits or pays the cost of benefits to employees on other types of leaves of absence, the employer must provide the same pay, benefits or costs to employees on MMLA leave.

The new amendments make the following additional changes to the MMLA:
  • An employee is now entitled to take eight weeks of MMLA leave once (s)he has been employed as a full time employee for three consecutive months, or once (s)he has completed the employer’s “probationary period”, whichever is earlier. As the law was previously worded, an employee could be required to complete a probationary period longer than three months before becoming eligible for MMLA leave.
  • MMLA leave may be taken not only “for the purpose of giving birth” or adoption of a child, but also if a child is placed with the employee “pursuant to a court order”.
  • Consistent with the current wording of the MMLA, employees must still give the employer at least two week’s notice of their anticipated date of departure on MMLA leave, and of their intent to return to work. However, the newly amended law grants an exception to this notice timing requirement: if the employee cannot give timely notice for a reason beyond the employee’s control (such as an unexpectedly early birth), notice will be sufficient if given “as soon as practicable”.
  • If both parents work for the same employer, the parents will have only eight weeks of MMLA leave to use between them, rather than each having his/her own eight weeks of parental leave.
  • The amended law now changes what was considered by some a controversial interpretation of the MMLA by our Supreme Judicial Court. The amended law now states that if an employer agrees to provide an employee an MMLA parental leave longer than the required 8 weeks, the employer must inform the employee in writing if the taking of more than 8 weeks of MMLA leave will result in the denial of job reinstatement and other MMLA rights and benefits. This written notice must be provided by the employer before the MMLA leave begins, or before any subsequent extension of that leave,
  • The amended law states that “an employee on parental leave for the adoption of a child shall be entitled to the same benefits offered by the employer to an employee on parental leave for the birth of a child”.
EMPLOYERS WILL NEED TO REVIEW AND REVISE THEIR HANDBOOKS AND TRAIN MANAGERS ABOUT THESE CHANGES TO THE LAW

Covered employers will need to review their Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law leave policy in their employee handbook and make any revisions that are needed to comply with the new law. For example, if the employer’s MMLA policy currently states that MMLA leaves are available only to female employees, that wording will have to be revised. Management personnel will also need to be informed and trained to comply with the amended law.







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Contact Info

Attorney Leslie Lockard
The Law Office of Leslie Lockard, P.C.
P.O. Box 537
Walpole, MA 02081
Tel. 508 850-9800
FAX 508 850-9801
Email: Llockard@leslielockard.com
Website: www.LeslieLockard.com