Paid Family Leave is now in effect. Here's how it works.

Debbie LaPlaca
PFML offers 26 weeks per year of paid, job-protected time off from work when you need it most.

Need paid time off from work to bond with a new child, recover from a serious illness, or tend to family matters while a spouse is deployed? The Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) is a state law that began offering benefits for these circumstances in January. This month, the program expands to include paid time off to care for ailing family members.

For parents, the program affords eligible workers the ability to stay home while earning what Brett Endaz called “a living wage” during the first 12 weeks of welcoming a new child in the family.

As a working professional, Endaz, of Shrewsbury, recently tapped into the PFML to take 12 weeks of family leave following the birth of her child.

“I am so grateful for those three months,” she said. “I would have gotten six weeks paid from my employer. The difference between six weeks and 12 weeks was huge.”

Endaz took the time to recover from delivery and to bond with her newborn without the worry of losing her job or the financial burden of time off without pay.

“Massachusetts put the money on the table. I have friends all over this county who were not afforded the leave that I was,” Endaz said. “My hope is that people utilize this legislation because they are entitled to it.” 

The PFML program is not just for new parents. If eligible, you may take up to 26 weeks per year of paid, job-protected time off from work when you need it most.

The state Department of Family and Medical Leave oversees the benefit program available to full time, part time, self-employed, gig and seasonal workers.

Starting on January 1, workers became eligible to receive paid time off to manage their own serious health condition, bond with a new child in the home, or manage affairs while a family member is absent serving in active military duty.

Starting in July, the benefits extended to workers who need to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Where to Start

The first step to receive benefits is to inform your employer of your need to take a family or medical leave. Once you do so, you may create a PFML account online and apply for most benefits by filling out the application found on mass.gov

Benefit Time Limits

Benefits may be collected for up to 12 weeks per year for child family leave, up to 20 weeks of medical leave to care for yourself, and up to 26 combined weeks of family and medical leave.

Family Leave Defined

One purpose for family leave is to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Qualified family members include a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, grandchild, grandparent and their siblings, legal guardians who raised you, and the parents of your spouse or domestic partner.

Up to 26 weeks of family leave may also be taken to care for the health of family members who are, once were, or will be deployed by the military to a foreign county. The program also provides 12 weeks of family leave to manage the family affairs of a person immediately after they are deployed.

It also covers parents or legal guardians who wish to bond with a new child during the first 12 months after a birth, adoption, or foster care placement. An expectant mother may also be eligible for benefits during pregnancy if a medical ailment that interferes with her ability to work is certified by a health care provider.

Serious Health Conditions

Serious health conditions are defined as a physical or mental ailment that prevents you from doing your job for more than three full and consecutive calendar days.

Serious health issues include chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes; permanent or long-term conditions like Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or terminal cancer; conditions due to pregnancy or post-birth recovery, and complications related to a diagnosis of COVID-19 that prevent you from working.

Program eligibility terms call for certification of a serious health condition by a health care provider in all instances.

Benefit Amount

The amount of weekly benefit pay varies according to your average weekly wage at the time you apply. Your wage is compared to 50 percent of the average weekly wage for all Massachusetts workers. That average wage in 2020 was $1,487. If your average wage is less than or equal to 50 percent, or $743 in the 2020 example, the program will replace 80 percent your wage. If you earn greater than the $743 weekly, 50 percent of your wages will be replaced up to the maximum benefit amount of $850 per week.

Of Note

While employers are part of the claim approval process, they can reject your claim only if you have already used the allowable amount of leave for the year, or if some portion of your claim is incorrect or fraudulent.