The Commonwealth of Massachusetts just approved a paid leave law, extending protection for workers that far exceeds the (unpaid) current national Family and Medical Leave Act and the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act. This newly enacted Massachusetts paid family leave law means that new parents, caregivers, and sick workers can take job-protected, paid time off without facing economic duress.

The new law, which would pay out beginning in 2021, offers workers protected, paid leave: up to 12 weeks for family care (caring for a baby or an ill family member) and up to 20 weeks of leave for your own illness. Similar to the unemployment insurance program, it will be funded through a combination of employer and employee payroll contributions, which will begin to be collected in 2019 to build the program reserves. Employers with fewer than 25 employees will not need to pay the employer portion, but their employees will still receive coverage under the new law.

In order to be eligible, employees need to work for an employer that pays into the state unemployment system. Municipalities are exempt, but can participate if they choose. Self-employed workers and contractors can choose to participate, and employers will need to provide notice to all contractors about the paid leave law.

Although the first seven days of leave are not covered (presumably because a worker could use sick time), those who need extended coverage would get paid on a sliding scale based on their income. The pay protection has a cap (currently $850) of about two-thirds of state average weekly wages. Medical documentation will be required, and workers will be encouraged to submit documentation in advance when possible.

This new Massachusetts paid family leave law adds significant protection for Massachusetts workers to care for themselves or a family member. At the moment, the state’s benefits are slated to be the most generous in the nation, and hopefully will inspire other states to follow suit.