Paternity Leave for Fathers – Massachusetts
On January 7, 2015, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law the Parental Leave Bill. The Massachusetts Parental Leave Act will come into effect from April 7, 2015. The new law expands the scope of the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act that provided only the female employees with eight weeks of job-protected leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child.
The new law extends this provision to the male employees in the same situation. While employers with more than 50 employees allow male employees to take paternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with less than 50 employees are not bound by it. Such employers typically implement only maternal leave policies. Going forward, such policies limiting to only female employees will be illegal. All employers with six or more employees must allow eligible employees to up to eight weeks of job-protected parental leave.
The changes brought in by the new Parental Leave Laws warrant employers to bring in an immediate amendment to the existing employee handbooks and leave policies to avoid trouble.
The key highlights of the new law are:
- It allows male employees to take eight weeks of job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
- Regardless of the gender, an employee may take leave if a child is placed in its custody by court order.
- If both parents work for the same employer, the employees are entitled to only eight weeks of leave in the aggregate for the same child.
- Only an employee who has completed the probation period in a company is eligible for this protection. This period is limited to a maximum of three months.
- Employees who have exhausted their leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act for reasons other than parental leave are eligible for the eight weeks leave under the new Parental Leave Law.
- It allows parental leave to be with or without pay at the discretion of the employer.
- Employees may provide notice “as soon as practicable if the delay is for reasons beyond the individual’s control,” rather than the previous requirement of at least two weeks’ notice.
- Job protected leave may extend beyond eight weeks unless the employer:
- clearly informs the employee in writing that taking longer than eight weeks of parental leave will result in a denial of reinstatement or loss of other rights and benefits, and
- does so prior to the beginning of the parental leave and again prior to extension of that leave. If an employer does not take these affirmative steps but agrees to extend an employee’s parental leave beyond eight weeks, the entire period of leave will be job-protected under the new law.