and Medical Leave in Massachusetts: 



Randy Albelda

Professor of economics
and senior research fellow at the Center for Social Policy at the University of
Massachusetts Boston


Alan Clayton-Matthews

Associate professor in
the School of Policy Studies and Urban Affairs, and the Department of
Economics, at Northeastern University



Massachusetts is better when all working people can balance
work, family, and life’s challenges. Yet many workplace and government policies
have not kept up with the realities of today’s working families. Most mothers
now work outside the home, and with an aging population, more workers need time
off to care for an elderly parent or grandparent. Family and medical leave
policies allow workers to take time off of work to attend to a serious health
condition, have a baby, bond with a newborn or adopted child, and take care of a
seriously ill relative. These policies can provide workers with more
flexibility in balancing work and family.


This brief looks at the kinds of leaves Massachusetts
working families are able to take and the obstacles they face due to the lack
of a comprehensive paid family medical leave program. Because of a recent
nation-wide survey of
employees conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in
2012, we know a good bit about who needs and takes family and medical leaves.
Using that survey, we  developed the
Albelda & Clayton-Matthews/Institute for Women’s Policy Research (ACM/IWPR)
paid family and medical leave simulation model that estimates current family
and medical leave usage, length of leaves, and if those leaves had any employer
wage replacement.[1]


The simulation model uses the information from the extensive
national survey on leave taking to estimate the probability of taking and
needing to take a leave based on a host of worker characteristics. These
probabilities are then applied to data on all employees in Massachusetts from
the American Community Survey (2009-2013).


Current employer provisions:


in Massachusetts, several policies make specific provisions for family and
medical leaves. Two of these, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
and the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (which was amended in 2015 to include
fathers and renamed the Parental Leave Act — PLA), allow certain workers to
take job protected leave for several months (12 weeks in the case of the
federal FMLA and 8 weeks in the PLA). But not all workers are covered and it is
not paid. The recently enacted Earned Sick Time law allows for paid time off,
but only up to 40 hours a year, typically not enough time for anyone taking a
leave for a serious health condition, having a child, or bonding with a new


While current policies make it possible for employees to
take unpaid family and medical leave in certain circumstances, many employees
can’t afford to take unpaid leave or can’t afford to take the total length of
leave that they need. Beyond the Earned Sick Time law of 40 hours, employers
are not legally required to provide workers with paid time off when out of work
for family or medical leave. And unlike several other states, Massachusetts has
no state insurance-style system that can provide wage replacement to people who
need to take family and medical leave. Most often, workers with paid vacation
and sick time benefits are able to use those for at least some portion of their
time out of work. But serious medical conditions, having a baby, and caring for
loved ones are not vacations!  


A small percentage of employers provide paid family leave (13 percent in New England), which lets workers
address the birth of a child or to care for a seriously ill family member.[2]
Moreover, 39 percent of employees in New England indicate they have access
through employers to short-term disability insurance policies they can use to
address serious illnesses, pregnancy, or non-work related injuries.[3]
Both workers and employers benefit from paid leave. Recent research finds
health improvements for new mothers and babies when parents are able to take
longer leaves under statewide programs.[4]
Further, worker turnover is reduced with paid leave.[5]


Who currently takes leave?


The simulator estimates about 413,000 Massachusetts workers
currently take a medical or family leave annually, representing 12.1 percent of
the 3.4 million workers employed. Of those, based on the national survey, we
estimate about one-quarter (95,000) employees take shorter leaves than they
need. There are an additional 112,000 workers that need a leave but do not take
it. The national survey indicates the most commonly cited reason why is because
workers could not afford it (46 percent). Fear of losing a job was the second
most commonly cited reason (17 percent). [6]
 Because some workers take more than one
leave a year, there were 568,500 leaves taken.


All kinds of workers take leaves. Compared to their
representation in the labor force, there is very little difference in the
percentage of workers that take leave by race and ethnicity and by education
level. Even though the labor force in Massachusetts is split evenly among men
and women, 56 percent of all leave takers were women. Further, workers under 24
years of age, workers making $15 an hour or less, and workers in small
businesses (firms that employ less than 50 workers) are less likely to take a


What kind of wage
replacement currently exists?


The simulation model does not estimate the kind of pay an
employee currently receives on leave (e.g. vacation time, family leave,
disability insurance), only if some form of wage replacement was provided,
usually through an employer. Because most leaves are short and most employees
have some access to paid sick time, the majority—72 percent—have some form of
wage-replacement. However, a much smaller percentage (55 percent) has full-wage
replacement from an employer. And of the 18 percent that indicate they get
partial wage replacement, on average that covers about half of their salary.
The DOL survey indicates that many workers stitch together a variety of paid time
off options, but rely heavily on vacation time.


Not surprisingly, lower waged workers, and Black and Latino
workers are less likely to have wage replacement than other workers. Workers in
small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are also much less likely to
receive wage replacement than those that work in larger firms. 


What types of leave do
workers take?


There are several types of family or medical leaves workers
can take. We put them into four categories depicted in the figure below. The
first and most common type of leave is for own health issues, not related to pregnancy.
This includes any serious health condition that a worker has that requires
certified medical attention. The flu would typically not fall under this
category, for example, but cancer or a hip replacement would. Three out of
every five leaves are for own-health reasons. The second most common type of
leave is for pregnancy related own-health reasons, which account for 7 percent
of all leaves. This type of leave also requires medical certification and
typically occurs a few weeks before delivery and several weeks after a birth.
The other two types of leaves are family leaves. One is for a parent to bond
with a new born or newly adopted child in the home, accounting for almost 8
percent of all current leaves. Finally, one out of four leaves is to care for
an ill child, spouse, or parent that has a serious health condition that is
medically certified.


Source:  ACM/IWPR Paid Family and Medical Leave
Simulation Model




What is the length of


Most family and medical leaves are relatively short: 25 percent
are for one week or less. Still, 50 percent of leaves are for 3 weeks or
longer. The average length of leave is 6.6 weeks, but these lengths vary
considerably by type of leave. Pregnancy-related leaves are the longest,
averaging 12.6 weeks, followed by other own-health leaves at 7.1 weeks. New
child leaves average 5.4 weeks, while leaves for ill relatives average 4 weeks.


Lessons for implementing
paid family and medical leave:


Workers already
take family and medical leaves – 12.1 percent of the labor force. But many
can’t take the length of leave they need and over 100,000 don’t take family or
medical leave because they are afraid of losing their job or can’t afford to
take unpaid leave. A paid leave program closes a large gap in our current
family and medical leave policies. It shares the costs among all workers and
employers. At some point, almost every worker will confront a serious medical
condition of their own, that of a relative, or the joy of welcoming a new child
in his or her home. This is the routine nature of our lives. Paid leave
recognizes this fact and provides for wage “insurance” for those times. It will
also serve to allow all employers an affordable way to provide paid leave and
reduce the wage penalty for workers that take leaves for their own health, to
have a child, or to care for ill relatives.[7]    







Randy Albelda and Alan Clayton-Matthews are co-authors of
the report, It’s
About Time: Costs and Coverage of Paid Family and Medical Leave in
, produced by the Center from Women and Politics and Public
Policy and the Center for Social Policy at the McCormack Graduate School at
University of Massachusetts Boston.




[1] Simulation model documentation can be found at http://scholarworks.umb.edu/econ_faculty_pubs/41/.

[2]  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Leave benefits: Access, civilian
National Compensation Survey, March 2015. [http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/civilian/table32a.pdf]

[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Insurance benefits:
Access, participation, and take-up rates, private industry workers,
National Compensation Survey, March 2015. Page 61.

[4] Anca Gaston, Sarah A. Edwards, and Jo Ann Tober,
“Parental leave and child care arrangements during the first 12 months of life
are associated with children’s development five years later,” International
Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies (2015) 6(2): 230–251;  Jenna Stearns, “The effects of paid maternity
leave:  Evidence from Temporary
Disability Insurance,”  Journal of Health
Economics, 43 (2015): 85-102.

[5] Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher J. Ruhm and Jane
Waldfo-gel. 2013. “The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Program on
Mothers’ Leave Taking and Subsequent Labor Market Outcomes.” Journal of
Policy Analysis and Management
32(2): 224-245; and Eileen Appelbaum and
Ruth Milkman, Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid
Family Leave in California
, Washington, DC: Center for Economic and Policy
Research, 2011.15

[6] Jacob Alex Klerman, Kelly Daley, and Alyssa Pozniak, Family
and Medical Leave in 2012: Technical Report, Abt Associates, prepared for
Department of Labor (2013), exhibit 6.4.1, p. 126 (at

[7] For estimates of the cost and coverage of paid leave
in Massachusetts see our report: 
It’s About Time: Cost and Coverage of Paid Family and
Medical Leave in Massachusetts

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