Mass Appeal: Bill Offers 26 Weeks of Paid Leave — Plus a Minimum Wage Hike

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Massachusetts passed bill H.4640 last week creating a new program that will allow employees to receive up to 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year, resulting in the most generous family leave policy in the country. The program is set to go into full effect in 2021.

The legislation will also gradually raise the Massachusetts’ minimum wage from $11 to $15 per hour, with tipped workers’ wages rising from $3.75 to $6.75 per hour. Both increases will be phased in over the next five years.

Massachusetts Family and Medical Leave Policy

Massachusetts’ program allows participating employees and self-employed workers to take 12 weeks of paid family leave per year to care for a family member, including a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or sibling.

Additionally, workers can use up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave per year to deal with personal medical issues. Employees can combine the family and medical leave, but the bill states there is a 26-week maximum of paid family and medical leave per benefit year.

The bill also protects employees from losing their jobs when taking the paid leave, stating they can return to their previous job or an “equivalent position” with the same pay, seniority and benefits.

While on leave, employees’ benefits will be calculated based on a percentage of their average weekly wage, with a cap of $850 per week.

The 26-week maximum paid leave is also available to employees dealing with an emergency related to the deployment of a family member for military service.

Grand Bargain to Stay Competitive

Bill H.4640 was touted as the Grand Bargain and a compromise to ballot initiatives that required a quicker timeline and more generous benefits.

Massachusetts joins a few states that offer paid family leave. California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island currently have policies, while Washington state and Washington, D.C. each have measures launching in 2020.

By the time the minimum wage hike goes into effect, Massachusetts will also match California, New York and Washington, D.C. for the highest minimum wage rates in the country, with many other states raising their minimum wage rates in 2018.

The bill is yet another sign that states are using incentives to attract a skilled workforce in a hot labor market — in June, Vermont offered remote workers up to $10,000 to move there.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder.