Effective April 7, 2015, Massachusetts employers with 6 or more employees must grant a leave of absence to new fathers.  Massachusetts has long required employers to give 8 weeks of maternity leave to female employees who give birth to or adopt a child.  The new Parental Leave Law now requires employers to grant full time employees of any gender an 8 week leave due to the:

  •   birth of a child;
  •   adoption of a child;
  •   the placement of a child under age 18 or under age 23 if the child is disabled.

An employee is eligible for leave if she or he has been employed full time for the duration of the employer’s probationary period, or for 3 consecutive months, whichever is shorter.

The employer must reinstate the employee to his or her previous or similar position after the leave, with no loss of seniority or service credit.  However, the leave may be either paid or unpaid, at the employer’s election, and employers are not required to provide the employee with any benefits during the leave unless it grants benefits to all employees on leave.

If both the mother and father are employed by the same employer, that employer is only required to provide an aggregate of 8 weeks of leave to the 2 employees.

Employees intending to take a leave must give their employer at least 2 weeks’ notice, unless they cannot do so for reasons beyond the employee’s control.

If the employer agrees to grant an employee a parental leave lasting longer than 8 weeks, or agrees to extend a leave, the employer must reinstate the employee to his or her previous position, as described above. However, an employer can avoid that result by giving the employee clear, written notice before the leave or extension that the employee will lose his or her reinstatement rights after 8 weeks.

Employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius are covered by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) which requires employers to grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave for the same reasons as the Parental Leave Law.  Thus, the Massachusetts law will primarily affect small employers or employees at larger FMLA covered employers who have not been employed for a year and therefore do not qualify for FMLA leave.

TO DO

Massachusetts Employers are required to post a notice about employees’ rights to a parental leave. Therefore, employers should remove their poster describing the Maternity Leave Act and replace it with a notice describing the Parental Leave Law.
Most employers have a probationary or introductory period.  If that period is shorter or longer than 3 months, employers may wish to consider changing their introductory period to 3 months, or 90 days, to be consistent with the Parental Leave Law.

Finally, employers with Massachusetts employees should revise their Employee Handbooks to reflect the changes the Parental Leave Law has made to the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about your obligations under this law or need to update your Employee Handbook.