by Shelby Felton, Esq. - Director and Product Compliance Counsel
November 02, 2023
What does it mean to top off (or top up) PFML benefits?
PFML benefits are typically partial wage replacement. Being able to top off or top up those benefits means that employees can supplement their PFML benefits to reach 100% (or closer to 100%) of their average wages while on leave.
Previously, employees receiving Massachusetts PFML benefits through the state plan could not top off their PFML benefits at all and employees who were subject to a private plan through their employer could only top off if they had employer approval. Massachusetts recently amended their PFML law (MA HB 4053 § 57; M.G.L. 175M § 3(c)) to make PFML benefit top off an employee choice.
For MA PFML benefit claims filed on or after November 1, 2023, employees may now top off their PFML benefits with any available accrued paid leave such as sick time, vacation, PTO, personal time, or other paid leave under an employer policy, including under a collective bargaining agreement. If an employee's claim for benefits is filed on or after November 1, 2023, applications can be applied retroactively and may still be eligible for top off even if those leaves started before November 1, 2023.
For employees who choose to supplement their PFML benefits in this way, the combined weekly sum of PFML benefits and employer-provided paid leave benefits cannot exceed the employee's Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW). Employers will be responsible for monitoring and ensuring that the combined weekly sum of employer-provided paid leave benefits and PFML benefits does not exceed an employee's IAWW.
As an example, if an employee's IAWW is $2,000 and they have an approved PFML application that pays $1,100 per week; the employee may top off that amount with PTO up to $900, if available. Looking to 2024, employees with an IAWW that is less than or equal to $898.36 (50% of the 2024 state average weekly wage of $1,796.72) will receive weekly benefits of 80% of their IAWW. With the change in the law, these employees can choose to supplement those weekly benefits with accrued leave up to 100% of their IAWW and subject to the program's 2024 maximum weekly benefit of $1,149.90.
After the PFML seven (7) day waiting period, employees and employers must ensure that the use of accrued leave to supplement PFML benefits does not cause an overpayment of benefits. Employers are responsible for managing any payments made to an employee that exceed the employee's IAWW. The state will not be involved in the repayment process for top off overages. This process is solely the responsibility of the employer and the employee.
Reliance Matrix Can Help!
Need help understanding all the nuances of MA PFML? Reliance Matrix offers employers leave administration, including state paid family and medical leave solutions and accommodation services. For more information, contact your Reliance Matrix account manager or send us a message to [email protected].
Through its insurance and administrative services entities, Reliance Matrix offers integrated leave management services involving the FMLA, state-mandated paid family and medical leave and accommodation solutions. Product features and availability may vary by state. For more information, please contact your Reliance Matrix account manager, or reach us at [email protected].