Labor and Employment Updates for 2021

Employers can expect several changes to come in 2021.  As detailed further below, there are many upcoming changes to federal and state laws that require employers be prepared.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”)

In 2020, the federal government passed the FFCRA, which encompassed two acts providing leave time to certain employees impacted by COVID-19: the “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act” (“EFMLA”) and the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” (“EPSLA”).  The FFCRA has required that all public employers, and all private employers with fewer than five hundred (500) employees, must provide leave consistent with the EFMLA and EPSLA.  The legislation passing the FFCRA called for the Act to expire on December 31, 2020, with no further EFMLA or EPSLA leave to be taken by employees beyond that date.

The recent pandemic relief package did not extend the FFCRA into 2021.  However, employers may voluntarily offer leave consistent with the FFCRA to employees.  Employers that choose to do so may utilize payroll tax credits to cover any voluntary FFCRA benefits provided through the end of March 2021.  At the time of this advisory, it appears that public employers are not entitled to payroll tax credits.  However, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has yet to issue definitive guidance on this issue.

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (“PFMLA”)

Beginning on January 1st, certain employees in Massachusetts will be able to access PFMLA leave for:

  • Twelve (12) weeks of family leave to bond with a child newly born, adopted or placed in foster care;
  • Twelve (12) weeks of family leave to manage family affairs while a family member is on active duty overseas;
  • Twenty (20) weeks of medical leave to manage the employee’s own serious health condition; and
  • Twenty-six (26) weeks of family leave to care for a family member who is a covered Service Member.

Beginning on July 1st, employees will be able to access PFMLA leave for:

  • Twelve (12) weeks of family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Public employees may only access PFMLA leave if the public employer has chosen to opt-in to providing PFMLA leave.

Eligible employees may access PFMLA benefits by submitting an application to the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (“Department”).  Weekly benefits are determined and capped by the Department, but the actual benefit amount depends on an employee’s average weekly wage and the average weekly wage for workers in Massachusetts.  Employees can receive up to twenty-six (26) weeks of PFMLA leave in a benefit year.

PFMLA leave runs concurrently with the federal FMLA and the Massachusetts parental leave act.  An employee must choose between utilizing accrued paid leave or PFMLA benefits, however an employee is not required to exhaust accrued paid leave before using PFMLA benefits.  An employer must continue to provide employment-related health insurance benefits at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had been working, however the employee is responsible for paying the employee’s share of health insurance premiums.

Juneteenth Holiday

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has designated Juneteenth as an official state holiday.  As a result, public offices must be closed on Juneteenth and employees may be entitled to holiday pay.  Employers should review their policies and collective bargaining agreements relative to holiday pay provisions.

If you have any questions about the content of this update, or labor and employment law generally, please contact us.

This update is provided for informational purposes only and is not considered legal or tax advice.