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FAQs: Rights and responsibilities of employer and employee under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act

Who is eligible for parental leave under Massachusetts law?  It is not limited to birth mothers.  An employee is entitled to 8 weeks of parental leave so long as he or she: (1) has completed the initial probationary period (not to exceed 3 months); or (2) if there is no such probationary period, has been employed for at least 3 consecutive months as a full-time employee.  An employer’s violation of the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act can trigger mandatory treble damages, plus attorney’s fees.

Employees can use parental leave for the purpose of:

  • Giving birth
  • For the placement of a child under the age of 18
  • For the placement of a child under the age of 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled
  • For adoption.

In the event there is a couple who both want to take parental leave, they are only allowed to a combined total of 8 weeks of parental leave for the birth or adoption of the same child.

The employee must give at least 2 weeks’ notice to the employer of the anticipated date of departure and the employee’s intention to return. Alternatively, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable if the delay is for reasons beyond the individual’s control.

The employee shall be restored to the employee’s previous, or a similar, position with the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority, as of the date of the leave.

The parental leave may be with or without pay at the discretion of the employer.

If the employer agrees to provide parental leave for longer than 8 weeks, the employer shall not deny the employee the rights under this section unless the employer clearly informs the employee, in writing, prior to the commencement of the parental leave, and prior to any subsequent extension of that leave, that taking longer than 8 weeks of leave shall result in the denial of reinstatement or the loss of other rights and benefits.

The parental leave shall not affect the employee’s right to receive vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length of service credit, benefits, plans or programs for which the employee was eligible at the date of the leave.

The employer need not provide for the cost of any benefits, plans or programs during the parental leave unless the employer provides for such benefits, plans or programs to all employees who are on a leave of absence.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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