Effective April 7, 2015, Massachusetts employers with six or more employees will be required to provide all employees, male and female, with up to eight weeks of unpaid parental leave. The new statute replaces the maternity leave act, which applied only to women, and permits any employee, male or female, to take 8 weeks of unpaid “parental leave” for the purpose of giving birth, or for the placement of a child for adoption or the placement of a child pursuant to court order.

Like the maternity leave act, the parental leave law requires that the employee have either completed the employer’s initial probationary period (if any), or that the employee have been employed on a full-time basis for at least three months. The statute does not require that the employer pay the employee during the leave. At the end of the leave, the employee must be restored to the same or similar position, unless other similarly situated employees have been laid off  during the leave.

A new feature of the parental leave law is that if both parents work for the same employer, they are only entitled to 8 weeks of parental leave in the aggregate. The law also provides that if the employer agrees to provide more than 8 weeks of parental leave, the employer will be obligated to restore the employee to his or her position at the end of the extended leave period.

The new law has the greatest impact on smaller companies with between 6 and 50 employees, because the Family and Medical Leave Act, which applies to companies with 50 or more employees, already provides for up to 12 weeks of  unpaid  leave which fathers can take in connection with birth, adoption etc.

The new parental leave law does also affect larger employers, because under the FMLA employees are only entitled to leave if they have worked for the employer for 12 months  and have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, whereas the parental leave law requires only three months of employment prior to the leave.

Massachusetts employers, especially those with less than 50 employees, should review and revise their leave policies as needed.

 Boston Employment Law PC represents both employers and employees with respect to a wide variety of employment law issues. For more information, please contact Howard Brown at hmb@bostonemploymenlaw.com or at (617) 566-8090.