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New Massachusetts Law Extends Maternity Leave Act Protections to Men

Effective April 7, 2015, a new Massachusetts law will replace and greatly expand the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act, most notably extending parental leave protections to men.

The Parental Leave bill, signed into law by former Governor Deval Patrick on January 7, 2015, states that employers having six or more employees must extend to male employees eight weeks of job-protected leave for birth or adoption of a child, which was previously available only to female employees under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act.

To be eligible for the protections of the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (“the Act”), the employee must have completed three consecutive months as a full-time employee, or if the employer requires an employee to complete an initial probationary period that period cannot exceed three months for purposes of eligibility under the Act. The Act requires employers to provide employees with a minimum of eight weeks of leave for any of the following purposes: giving birth; adoption of a child under the age of 18; adoption of a child under the age of 23, if the child is mentally or physically disabled; or placement of a child with an employee due to a court order.

Leave under the Act may be with or without pay, at the discretion of the employer. However, following leave, the employer must restore the employee to his or her previous position or to a substantially comparable one. Additionally, the Act specifies that leave taken under the Act does not affect the employee’s rights regarding vacation time, sick leave, advancement, seniority, bonuses, length of service credit, benefits, or any other benefit for which the employee was eligible at the date of leave. Another change: if the employer agrees to provide leave beyond the eight weeks, the employer may not deny job restoration or benefits, unless having so notified the employee in writing prior to the commencement of the leave and prior to any additional extension. Therefore, it would behoove employers granting leave beyond the eight weeks to provide written communications of what will not be guaranteed upon return.

The Act further provides that if both parents work for the same employer, they will be entitled to an aggregate of eight weeks’ leave to cover the birth or adoption of the same child. Employers are required to post conspicuously on the employer’s premises a notice describing this section of the Act and the employer’s related policies.

 

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