Paternity leave in Massachusetts is a hot topic of discussion right now. At Genesis HR, we’ve seen more inquiries about paternity (and parental) leave in the last several months than we have in all the years before it combined! Employees are asking about it; employers are thinking about it, and soon, new legislation will be passed regarding it. Here’s what you need to know about paternity leave in Massachusetts, along with some best practices (and things to avoid) when implementing paternity leave at your small to midsize business.
The Emergence Of Paternity Leave
Thanks to today’s global economy, U.S. employees are aware of other countries’ generous paternity leave laws. That awareness has generated significant media attention as of late surrounding paid family leave at the federal level and in Massachusetts, inciting dialogue at companies of all sizes. For small to midsize companies, the battle to attract and retain talent extends to this area; in order to find and keep the best employees, small companies are tasked with matching the leave policies of other, larger companies—those who often do adopt and offer benefit policies more quickly.Figuring out how to implement paternity leave successfully is crucial for employers, particularly if your organization wants to attract millennials, who place significant value on work-life balance. Click To Tweet
Paternity leave can pose significant challenges for employers—most notably, small businesses have a tough time covering employees out on leave for extended periods of time. But just as employers can plan ahead to address family leave with women, paternity leave should be planned out for men, particularly if your organization wants to attract millennials, who place significant value on work-life balance. Figuring out how to implement paternity leave successfully is crucial for employers.
What is “standard” paternity leave?
At Genesis, we see smaller companies that commonly offer two weeks of paid time off for paternity leave. Two weeks leave means employees don’t have to dip into vacation time—but it’s not so long that employers are left without a key employee for too long.
Need to create PTO policies but don’t know where to start? Learn best practices for structuring your PTO—plus get a free template to help you create your own policies in this free guide.
We also see companies that don’t offer any paternity leave benefits but do allow employees to take their available paid time off (PTO), or take unpaid time off as provided for in the Family & Medical Leave Act.
The State Of Paternity Leave In Massachusetts & Around The U.S.
In our article Paternity leave in 2018: Where the U.S. stands, we shared the following:
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents (both maternity and paternity leave). It does not require paid leave—about 14% of companies that do offer paid paternity leave do so by choice. The U.S. remains the only developed country that doesn’t require paid parental leave.
Currently, there are only four states (plus Washington D.C.) that offer paid family and medical leave:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington D.C.
Washington State also passed a law set to go into effect in 2020 that provides guaranteed pay for 12 weeks for new moms and dads (by birth or adoption), plus another two weeks for complicated pregnancies.
Paternity Leave In Massachusetts
Massachusetts used to require employers to provide eight weeks unpaid maternity leave to employees. (The legislation did say that, despite being maternity leave, employers could not discriminate against males in applying it.) In 2015, the language was updated to read unpaid parental leave.
In 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law affecting all employers in the Commonwealth by creating a paid family and medical leave program funded by a state payroll tax.
Beginning in 2021, most Massachusetts employees will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member or bond with a new child, and up to 20 weeks of paid leave to address their own serious medical issues.
According to SHRM,
“The program will be funded by a new payroll tax at the initial rate of 0.63 percent, which goes into effect beginning July 1, 2019. Benefit amounts will be determined based on a percentage of the employee’s weekly income, up to a maximum of $850.00 per week.
The law also creates the Department of Family and Medical Leave, which will publish proposed regulations for comment by March 31, 2019. The regulations are expected to be finalized by July 1, 2019.
Although the right to take leave will begin in 2021, employers must take certain actions much earlier. For example, beginning Jan. 1, 2019, employers must post a notice describing the benefits available under the law and provide each employee, within 30 days of hire, a written explanation of the employee’s rights.”
Employers Best Practices For Paternity Leave
- Have a paternity leave policy before it becomes needed. Employers should run whatever leave policy they have (and that policy must be specific and documented, outlining eligibility for employees). The policy should outline expectations for the leave, including the amount of time leave is provided, and run concurrently with federal and state laws.
- Don’t make individual arrangements for paternity leave. Small companies are infamous for making one-off arrangements with employees—giving a benefit to one employee and not to another. This is dangerous territory. Fortunately, it can be easily avoided by implementing and consistently adhering to a paternity leave policy.
- Employers with paternity leave policies should require advance notice of a leave. To minimize the disruption caused by an employee’s time away, require a minimum amount of notice from employees who need to take leave. Use that time to plan ahead.
- Try to avoid concurrent leaves. In working with small businesses, we see a lot of husband-wife employee teams. If you are an organization that employs multiple family members whose leave times could overlap, make sure your policy includes language preventing concurrent leaves for mom and dad.
For more information about paternity leave in Massachusetts, or help getting answers to questions about paternity leave, we recommend both Mass.gov and SHRM as resources to keep you apprised of legislative and legal updates.
If you’re reading this article (or another article, bulletin, email, etc. about paternity leave) and wondering what you should do as an employer, now is the time to pick up the phone and talk with us!
At Genesis HR Solutions, we help our clients maintain compliance with federal and state laws with regard to leave; beyond compliance, we also strategize about being proactive about the policies you adopt. If you’re a small company looking to attract new talent, you want to have your paternity leave benefits ready—contact us to get started!