By Marti Cardi, Vice President Product Compliance
That’s right, yet another Massachusetts paid family and medical leave update! Today’s news will be welcomed by Massachusetts employers, especially those considering whether to adopt a private plan rather than use the state program. Let’s be honest, though – it’s only good news because it backs off from some of the imminent deadlines that were going to be extremely difficult for employers to meet.
Here are the updates, quoted directly (in italics below) from the DFML announcements available on its website. See our comments and analysis below each DFML update.
Exemption Deadline Extended for Quarter 1
The Department’s current guidance requires that exemptions for private plans must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they will go into effect. For Quarter 1 only [July-September 2019], however, the deadline to file for a private plan exemption that will be in effect for first quarter contributions for paid family and medical leave has been moved from June 30th to September 20th, 2019. This will allow employers additional time to contemplate private plan options. Going forward, the Department will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis but applications must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they go into effect.
Please note that contributions to PFML begin on July 1, 2019 and the September 20, 2019 extension of the exemption application deadline only impacts the contribution requirements if the exemption request is approved. If the exemption request is denied the impacted business will be responsible for remitting the full contribution amount from July 1, 2019 forward. Therefore, DFML recommends that businesses in the Commonwealth consult with their tax advisors as to the implications associated with applying for a private plan exemption that may or may not be approved.
Employer Notice to Employees
The deadline for employer notice to employees has been extended from May 31 to June 30, 2019. The notice, which may be provided electronically, must include the opportunity for an employee or self-employed individual to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information.
Please Note: The Department of Family and Medical Leave is continuing to accept comment on draft regulations regarding paid family and medical leave and is planning to host two additional listening sessions in May which will be announced shortly.
What does this mean for employers?
Under the prior rule, if a plan was not approved by June 30, the employer would owe the employer and employee contributions to the Commonwealth for all of the quarter (July-September 2019); and this amount could not be recovered even if a private plan was later approved. Now if your private plan is approved by September 20, 2019, you will not have to pay over the July-September 2019 premium contributions to the Commonwealth but rather can keep those for funding your own private plan benefits payments.
Here is a quick rundown of upcoming dates and obligations:
- All employers will continue to have reporting obligations for every quarter, including Q1 of the program
(July-September 2019). The DFML has stated it will issue more reporting guidelines prior to July 1
so that employers know what data they need to be ready to provide after the close of Q1, probably
in October 2019.
- All employers will need to post the required notice for workers in the workplace. See our prior post
here for more details
- Individual notices. All employers will need to send individual notices to every employee and
contractor and receive an acknowledgement or refusal to acknowledge signed by the worker, but the
deadline has been moved to June 30, 2019. More details are available here and here.
- Applications for private plan approval can be filed at any time after April 29, 2019. However, the
application will need to include a copy of the private plan, a copy of the required bond (see our
blog post here), and if Matrix is applying for your company, a signed authorization for Matrix to
act on your company’s behalf.
A Word on Taxation Issues
On May 1 the DFML also issued a notice that addresses the taxation question – sort of. We have received several questions about tax treatment of premiums paid by employees and benefits. Matrix cannot answer those questions, as we are not tax advisors. Apparently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn’t either. Here is their notice:
The tax treatment of PFML contributions for both state and federal purposes is governed by federal tax law. The Commonwealth has requested guidance from the Internal Revenue Service on this question and others related to the tax implications of PFML contributions and benefits. Until IRS guidance is issued, individuals and businesses are urged to consult with their own tax advisors on these questions. Based on its own review of federal rules and following consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the Department of Family and Medical Leave anticipates that the IRS will conclude that employee contributions should be withheld from after-tax wages. A definitive rule for proper tax treatment of contributions will be available once IRS guidance is issued.
MATRIX CAN HELP! In addition to keeping you abreast of developments through these blog posts, Matrix is taking other steps to assist employers interested in the private plan option. These include developing a sample private plan for use by our clients, and an employer guide to the private plan decision and application process. If your company is interested in the private plan option for Massachusetts PFML, contact your Matrix/Reliance Standard account manager or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned here for more information about Massachusetts PFML as it develops – we’ll bring it to you daily, if necessary!