Expectant moms in Massachusetts just notched a major win, after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law giving the state the most generous paid family leave plan in the country.
But that’s not the only way working families in the Commonwealth stand to benefit from the legislation, dubbed the “Grand Bargain” for the way both Democrats and Republicans worked together to craft it. The law would also gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $11 to $15 an hour by 2023.
“The Massachusetts workforce continues to grow with more and more people finding jobs, and our administration is committed to maintaining the Commonwealth’s competitive economic environment,” Baker said in a release, after singing the measure Thursday.
So just how big a victory is it for paid leave advocates? In many aspects, Massachusetts' new program, which goes into effect in 2021, is even better for moms than the one recently signed into law in Washington state, which launches in 2020. That law had snagged the title of most generous because it allows moms who suffer pregnancy-related medical complications to take up to 18 weeks of paid leave.
Now, in Massachusetts, that same mother will be entitled to a whopping 26 weeks of paid leave.
And it’s not just parents who will be able to take advantage of the legislation. The law provides 12 weeks of compensated leave to bond with a new child, but workers can also take paid time off to care for a seriously ill family member. The definition of family is fairly broad, too, and includes grandchildren, grandparents, domestic partners, parents-in-law and even siblings.
They’ll also be able to take 20 paid weeks off to recover from their own significant illnesses or injuries. (Moms with medical complications can combine personal and family leave for up to 26 paid weeks off—which makes the plan the most generous in the nation.)
While on leave, Massachusetts employees will receive 80 percent of their typical wages up to one-half of the state’s average weekly wage ($699) and then 50 percent of their pay after that—capped at $850 per week.
Even better, the leave is job protected, meaning workers must be restored to their original or an equivalent position upon returning to work. That’s especially good news for those who don’t qualify for job-protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—about 40 percent of workers nationally.
Massachusetts joins a number of states that have launched paid leave programs, or expanded existing ones, in recent years, including Washington state, New York, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, plus Washington, D.C.