Page 31 - HealthcareNews May/June 2021
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Examining PFML
With the Leave Bill Now in Effect, Here’s How It Works
ack in 2018, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medi- cal Leave program (PFML) into law. That
legislation has now taken effect, and many employers have questions about exactly how the law works and to whom it applies.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, most eligible employees who
“The PFML law has strict notice requirements. Employers must provide written notice of the PFML program to all employees within 30 days of the employee’s start date.”
work in Massachusetts are entitled to paid, job-pro- tected time off from work to manage a serious health condition of their own; to bond with a child following the child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement; or
to care for a family member suffering from a serious health condition.
The PFML program is run by the state’s Depart- ment of Family and Medical Leave, providing income replacement benefits to eligible employees. PFML benefits are funded by a payroll contribution deducted from employees’ wages. Under the PFML law, employ- ers were required to begin such contributions on Oct. 1, 2019.
Who Is Eligible?
Leave under the PFML program applies to most W-2 employees in Massachusetts, regardless of wheth- er they are full-time, part-time, or seasonal. Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Massachusetts PFML law says an employee is not re- quired to work for a minimum length of time in order to be eligible for leave under the PFML law. However, an employee must meet the minimum-threshold earn- ing requirements in order to be eligible for leave under the law.
How Many Weeks of Leave Are Available?
The PFML law requires employers to provide eligible employees up to 26 weeks of leave in a benefit year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, eligible employees may
be entitled to up to 20 weeks of paid leave to manage their own serious health condition. Eligible employees may also receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a child who is newly born, adopted, or placed in foster care, and up to 26 weeks to care for a
family member in the Armed Forces.
On July 1, 2021, employees will be able to receive up
to 12 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Under the Massachusetts PFML law, a family member could be an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, parent of a spouse, or parent of a domestic partner.
In the aggregate, eligible employees may not receive more than 26 weeks of paid leave in a benefit year, even if they have more than one family member who may need care.
Requirement of Written Notice to Employees
The PFML law has strict notice requirements. Em- ployers must provide written notice of the PFML pro- gram to all employees within 30 days of the employee’s start date. Such notice must include information about the benefits under the PFML program, contribution rates, and job protections under the law. The notice
Department of Family and Medical Leave) that explain the benefits available to eligible employees under the PFML law.
Application Process
Employees must inform their employers of their need to take leave under the law at least 30 days before the start of the leave, and before filing an application for leave with the state. Where reasons beyond an employee’s control prevent them from giving such ad- vance notice, they must inform their employer as soon as is practical. It is then the employee’s responsibility to apply for leave through the Department of Family and Medical Leave, and the department will make the decision as to whether the leave is approved or denied. Once the department receives the employee’s applica- tion, the department will request information from the employer relative to the employee’s job status.
Important Considerations for Employers
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising any right to which he or she is entitled under the law, includ- ing the right to request PFML leave. To this end, the PFML law has a strict anti-retaliation provision. If an employer takes adverse action against an employee during the employee’s leave, or within six months after their return to work, there is a presumption that the employer retaliated against the employee for exercising his or her rights under the PFML law.
It is then the employer’s burden to prove there was some independent and justifiable reason for taking the adverse employment action. Adverse employment ac- tion can include termination of employment, disciplin- ary action, or reduction in status, pay, or benefits.
The PFML law runs concurrently with other ap- plicable state and federal leave laws, such as the federal FMLA and the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act. Simi- lar to the federal FMLA, a Massachusetts employee who returns to work after taking leave under PFML
 to employees must also include an opportunity for an individual to either acknowledge or decline receipt. In addition to written notice, employers must display posters (issued or approved by the Massachusetts
 Please see Law, page 43 Holyoke Medical Center Opens Two New Behavioral-health Units
 HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center opened and began providing care in two new behavioral-health units on June 1.
The new units are located in the main hospital at 575 Beech St., Holyoke, and consist of one 16-bed adult behavioral- health unit and one 18-bed geriatric behavioral-health unit. These units are in
addition to the 20-bed adult behavioral- health unit that has been serving the com- munity since 1989.
“Holyoke Medical Center has always been committed to providing the care and services that meet the needs of our com- munity. As an independent community hospital, we are also able to adapt quickly
as those needs change,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems. “The construction for these two units started
in January of this year, when the veterans staying with us since April 2020 were able to return to the Soldiers’ Home. In less than five months, our team was able to trans-
form and build two state-of-the-art units, designed specifically to support the needs of the growing number of behavioral-health patients throughout our region.”
Both new units feature a vast amount of natural light, group activity rooms, social areas, and quiet spaces, in addition to dedicated and secure outdoor space.

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