Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the business organizations and advocates who last year negotiated a compromise version of paid family and medical leave are together asking state leaders to postpone the July 1 starting date of the program by three months.
“In the course of our work together we have identified the need for a three-month extension of the July 1, 2019 deadline for approval of employers’ private paid family and medical leave plans and the commencement of the required plan contributions,” the groups said in a letter to Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka.
“In addition, there are five other amendments to chapter 121 of the Acts of 2018 that are necessary for clarification of rights and responsibilities of stakeholders to effect the smooth implementation and operation of the new law,” the letter said.
The group noted that the extension would not impact any of the benefits or the timing for eligibility of benefits under the new law.
Signers of the letter include AIM, Raise Up Massachusetts, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, The Coalition for Social Justice, Local 509 of the Service Employees International Union, Greater Boston Legal Services, The Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the Alliance for Business Leadership and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Springfield.
The call for a delay from politically diverse groups reflects growing concern that neither the marketplace nor employers nor their workers are adequately prepared for the sweeping new benefits program.
The Baker Administration attempt to allay those concerns three weeks ago by extending the deadline for employers to secure private insurance that would allow them to opt out of the paid leave system. The administration also extended the deadline for employers to inform workers about opt-out plans from May 31 to the end of June.
The business and advocacy groups commended the administration’s efforts.
“However, given the lack of employer clarity on the regulations, the importance of communicating with employees regarding payroll deductions, and the ability for insurance providers to offer a private-sector option, we continue to support and urge legislative action on the proposed amendment extending the deadline for private plan approvals and the commencement of required contributions from July 1, 2019, to October 1, 2019, as well as the additional five clarifying amendments to the statute…” the group writes.
The proposed amendments are intended to provide clarity for employers, insurance providers (developing and providing products to employers), employees applying for the leaves covered by the new law, and health care providers certifying the need for leave. In addition, the clarifying amendments align core principles of the Massachusetts paid family and medical leave law with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The amendments include:
- Intermittent Leave – This amendment would clarify that leave taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule reduces the amount of remaining leave available to a covered worker. This change tracks the language of the federal FMLA.
- Serious health condition – This amendment clarifies that eligibility for medical leave for the covered individual’s own serious health condition arises where such a serious health condition “makes the covered individual unable to perform the functions of the covered individual's job.”