May 19, 2020

Are you a Massachusetts business owner? Or maybe you operate out of neighboring state, with certain employees spending most of their working hours in the Bay State?

Either way, you need to be familiar with the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law. This important legislation protects your employees by guaranteeing them a set amount of time in the case that they need to take care of themselves or a family member. 

If you’re unsure whether or not your business needs to comply with this Massachusetts law (If you’re here, it most likely does), read on to learn:

  • What this law is
  • Who has to comply
  • Which employees are covered
  • What earned sick time can be used for

What is the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law?

The Massachusetts sick leave law guarantees that most employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of time worked. It allows employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours in a year; however, employees do not accrue additional hours after the 40-hour cap.

This earned sick time must be paid at the employee’s standard rate. Unused leave can be rolled over to the following year but is still capped at 40 hours in that year.

Employers can choose to provide more generous sick leave, but State law only protects 40 hours of accrued and used sick leave in each 12 month period. 

Note: A year can be defined as any 12-month period by the employer and must be communicated to employees upon hire. An employer must also notify employees if this 12-month period changes.

Who Has to Comply with MA Earned Sick Time Laws?

All employers in Massachusetts must provide employees with the ability to accrue and use earned sick time. The main difference is based on company size: Only businesses with 11 or more employees must provide paid earned sick time. While smaller employers must provide earned sick time, it may be unpaid.

A small Massachusetts employer may elect to make earned sick time paid and any business owner can offer more in their earned sick leave policy if they so choose.

An employer outside of the state with an employee or employees whose primary place of work is in Massachusetts must provide earned sick time.

The following types of employers are not required to provide earned sick time, but can choose to offer it:

  • U.S. government
  • Massachusetts cities and towns
  • Local public employers (e.g.: school committees including regional schools and educational collaboratives)

Which Employees are Eligible for Earned Sick Leave?

To qualify, an employee’s primary place of work needs to be Massachusetts. Employees start earning sick leave on their first day of employment. Employers can choose to put a 90-day probationary period in place limiting the use of sick leave, but employees are eligible to use their accrued sick time after 90 days.

Most employees who work in the Bay State are eligible, including those who are:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Seasonal
  • Per-diem
  • Temporary 

An employee’s primary place of work is Massachusetts if:

  • The employee spends work hours traveling outside of Massachusetts but returns regularly to a Massachusetts base of operations before resuming a new travel schedule.
  • The employee telecommutes to a Massachusetts worksite.
  • The employee permanently relocates to Massachusetts (in which case his or her primary place of work will become Massachusetts on the first date of actual work in the state).

For employees constantly switching locations of work, the primary place of work may be determined by assessing the state in which the employee spent the relative majority of his or her working time over the previous benefit year. Employers should make a reasonable assessment of the primary place of work for new employees.

It is also important to note that it is not necessary for an employee to spend 50% of his or her working time in Massachusetts for it to be the employee’s primary place of work.

What Can Earned Sick Time Be Used For?

Massachusetts employees can use earned sick time to take care of themselves and certain family members. The main reasons for use include:

  1. Caring for themselves or a family member’s physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition. (This can include preventative, home, or professional care.)
  2. Attending routine medical appointments for the employee or family member.
  3. Addressing the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence for either the employee or the employee’s child.
  4. Covering travel time related to the purpose for which the sick leave was taken.

Family members are defined as: 

  • Child: Includes biological, foster, adopted, step, and legal wards
  • Parent: Includes parents and parents-in-law
  • Spouse 

Ensure Your Massachusetts Sick Leave Policy is Compliant

Massachusetts employers are required to post notice of the Earned Sick Leave Law in a conspicuous place where employees work (we recommend hanging it near your Labor Laws poster and other similar notices). You must also provide a written copy of the notice to all employees, along with your specific sick leave policy, in your handbook or manual.

It is vital for any company in Massachusetts or with employees working in the state to have a defined sick leave policy in place. If you have additional questions about the law requirements or need assistance establishing a compliant sick leave policy, contact BlueLion at 603-818-4131 or today! Our HR experts will provide the guidance you need and can even help you update or create a new sick leave policy.

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.