United States: Big Changes Coming For Baystate Employers: Paid Family & Medical Leave And Minimum Wage Increases

In one fell swoop, Massachusetts has set in motion a plan to increase its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour and create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program as the result of a "grand bargain" between employee advocates and representatives of the state's business community. Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill in a ceremony today at the State House, which will also eliminate premium pay for Sundays and holidays, and make the annual sales tax holiday permanent. What do Massachusetts employers need to know about this new law?

Minimum Wage Up, Sunday Premium Pay Out

The new law will raise the minimum wage gradually from the current $11.00 per hour to $15.00 by January 1, 2023, marking the eighth increase in as many years. Tipped workers will also see an increase, with their minimum wage increasing from the current $3.75 to $6.75 per hour. 

In the lone bit of welcome news for employers, the law will also update the Massachusetts blue laws to gradually eliminate the obligation to pay retail employees time-and-one-half for hours worked on Sundays and holidays. Beginning in 2019, the premium will be reduced by 10 percent each year until it is eliminated in 2023.

Though the changes are gradual, the first increase is just six months away. You should begin making arrangements to comply with the new wage rates promptly as employers are strictly liable for three times the amount of any unpaid wages plus attorneys' fees.

Paid Family & Medical Leave – Another Headache For Employers

The law also creates the state's first paid family and medical leave requirement, with the first payouts beginning on January 1, 2021. The leave may be used for bonding with a newborn child (or child placed for adoption) within 12 months of the birth or adoption, as well as a qualifying exigency related to a family member's service in the armed forces. Medical leave is available to care for an employee's own serious health condition or that of a family member.

While largely based on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), the Massachusetts statute is much broader in many respects:

  • Covered employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks for family leave and 20 weeks for medical leave (with a combined maximum of 26 weeks in any year);
  • In addition to spouses, sons/daughters, and parents covered by FMLA, Massachusetts has expanded "family" to include parents-in-law, domestic partners, grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings with respect to who covered leave may be used for;
  • Employers cannot require employees to exhaust other forms of paid time off prior to or during the use of paid family and medical leave; and
  • Former employees remain eligible for leave within 26 weeks of separation from their employer.

Who's Paying for This?

The newly created Department of Family & Medical Leave is charged with implementing a trust fund as the depository for all employer contributions. Employers with 25 or more employees are required to contribute 0.63 percent of each employee's wages staring on July 1, 2019.

By way of example, the total contribution for a full-time employee earning $20 per hour is approximately $262 per year. The contribution rate will be adjusted annually to cover the costs of administering the program.

  • Employers are responsible for paying 60 percent of the contribution for medical leave, and can deduct the remaining 40 percent from an employee's wages;
  • Employers are not obligated to pay any part of the family leave contribution, however, as the law permits them to deduct 100 percent of the contribution from the employee; and
  • Contributions are capped once an employee's wages exceed the amount set by the Social Security Administration for contributions to the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs (currently $128,400).

How Much Do They Get?

The benefit rate is based on a calculation involving the "state average weekly wage" and the individual's average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly benefit of $850. The amount of an employee's average weekly wage that is less than or equal to 50 percent of the state average weekly wage is replaced at 80 percent, and the amount of an employee's average weekly wage greater than 50 percent of the state average weekly wage is replaced at 50 percent.  

As of October 1, 2017, the state average weekly wage was $1,338.05. Using that figure, the table below shows the benefit amount for a full-time employee earning minimum wage, $20.00 per hour, and an employee who earns the state average weekly wage.

Anything Else?

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for the use of paid family or medical leave and subjects employers to serious liability for doing so, including triple damages and attorneys' fees.

The law also creates a presumption that any "negative change in seniority, status, employment benefits, pay or other terms or conditions of employment" within six months of an employee's return from paid leave is presumed to be retaliatory. To overcome the presumption, an employer must be able to demonstrate with "clear and convincing" evidence that it would have done the same thing in the absence of the employee's leave.

Finally, employers will also be required to post a notice created by the Department of Family & Medical Leave, and inform all employees within 30 days of the law and the rights afforded by it.

How Should Businesses Respond?

In anticipation of the law's effective date—which will be here before you know it—you should prepare to take the following steps to make sure you stay on the right side of the law:

  • Evaluate employees' pay and work schedules to ensure that, as the minimum wage increases, affected employees' rates of pay are increased;
  • Monitor work on Sunday and holidays and be cognizant of the annual changes so that you are calculating premium pay properly;
  • Review employee payroll to determine the proper family and medical leave contributions and make arrangements to cover the employer's contribution;
  • Update your handbook and policies to comply with the law's new requirements—for example, the law requires that you provide notice to your employees of their right to be paid family and medical leave. You should likewise consider implementing a policy to comply with the law's notice and medical certification requirements;
  • Train your managers and your HR staff on compliance with the new leave law; and
  • Once the law is effective, carefully consider any disciplinary actions that may occur within the six-month presumption period.

When Does This Start?

The bulk of the "grand bargain" is effective on January 1, 2019. The minimum wage will increase annually each January 1 until 2023. Contributions for paid family and medical leave will begin in July 2019, and the first payouts will not occur until January 2021. Be on the lookout for regulatory guidance by March 31, 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions