On his last day in office, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law an amendment to the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”), extending coverage of the Act to male employees. The new law will go into effect April 7, 2015, and will provide male employees the same rights afforded to female employees: eight weeks of job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child. The law was further expanded to cover leaves of absence for the placement of a child with an employee pursuant to court order. The MMLA applies to employers with six or more employees.

Other features of the new law include extending eligibility to employees after completion of a probation period set by the employer, not to exceed three months (as opposed to six months under the current law). If an employer does not have a set probationary period, the employees are eligible after at least three consecutive months of full-time employment. Currently, females desiring to avail themselves of the MMLA are required to provide two weeks advance notice of her intended date of departure and anticipated return date. The new law allows the employee to provide notice “as soon as practicable” if providing two weeks notice is delayed for reasons beyond the employee’s control.

Although the new law does not change the requirement that employees taking MMLA leave be restored to the employee’s original or similar position after the eight-week leave, if an employer provides leave for longer than eight weeks, the employer must restore the employee to his her original or similar position unless it informs the employee in writing prior to the leave that reinstatement may be denied if the employee takes more than eight weeks.

Massachusetts employers should review and revise their personnel policies to comply with the amended MMLA.