Q: I am pregnant and my due date is in the late fall of 2019. I understand that Massachusetts now offers a paid maternity leave benefit. How do I apply? What other benefits should I be thinking about?
A: Congratulations! Very exciting! There may be both state and federal laws which could provide you with you with some benefits. Let me provide a quick overview.
Paid Family Medical Leave Act in Massachusetts – This is what you are probably referring to in your original question. In October, 2019, employers will be required to begin withholding payroll contributions to comply with this law. This law applies to almost all employers, regardless of size. Most employees would qualify as a “covered individual” under the law, and even some contractors may be eligible. However (and this is a big however for your individual situation), covered individuals are eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth of a child beginning January 1, 2021.
Family and Medical Leave Act – This is a federal law and only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Although your job will likely be protected, there is no required pay component with FMLA. However, it will provide up to 12 weeks for most employees, if the employee meets some eligibility requirements.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – This is a Massachusetts-based law, which was amended in April, 2018. It strengthens protections for pregnant employees. It requires an employer to accommodate employees who are pregnant or those with a pregnancy-related condition (like morning sickness). This law applies to employers with six or more employees.
Massachusetts Parental Leave Act – As the name implies, this is a Massachusetts law. This law applies to employers with six or more employees. It is gender neutral, meaning it applies to both men and women. Most employees are eligible for this unpaid leave of eight weeks, assuming that the employees has completed their introductory period of employment (which can’t exceed three months).
Pregnancy Discrimination Act – PDA forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment. This is a federal law, which was passed in 1978.
Massachusetts Earned Sick Time – This state law, passed in 2014, will permit eligible employees to take 40 hours of sick time per year. One of the stated purposes of the law is to care for a sick child. However, if your employer has fewer than 11 employees, this time may be unpaid.
Small Necessities Leave Act – This is a state law, which is probably less well known than some of the others. SNLA provides some employees with the right to take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave every 12 months. This time off might be for one of several reasons, but one of the reasons is a child’s doctor or dentist appointment. This law only applies to employees working for an employer with 50 or more employees.
Many employers also offer short-term disability insurance. This insurance could provide you with some income replacement for a period of time. You may also want to inquire about remote work or a flexible work schedule. If your employer has an employee handbook, this can be a helpful resource so you can plan in advance.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.