Quick guide to the new MA sick leave law

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Quick guide to the new MA sick leave law

Most employers in the Bay State already offer some form of paid time off or sick leave.

But on July 1, 2015, it became mandatory for all employers in Massachusetts to offer sick leave – regardless of size. And those employers with 11 or more employees must offer paid sick leave.

That's why our Development Team added a custom MA sick accrual history report to help our clients in that state better track the MA sick accrual. Several of our clients in Massachusetts requested a method to display the current year available balance that an employee has left to use. 

The report runs an accrual history per check date for your MA sick time accrual code. The “Available to Use” column subtracts 40 from the used and displays the employee’s available sick time.

Employers also have had a fair number of questions regarding the law since it took effect last year. We’ve compiled the most popular ones below:

1. Can you provide a summary of the MA sick leave law?

Sure. The new law entitles Massachusetts employees to earn up to 40 hours of sick leave for personal/family reasons. The number of hours to which an employee is entitled is related to the numbers of hours they work.

Like we mentioned, all employers must provide earned sick time, but only employers of 11 or more employees must provide PAID earned sick time.

2. Which of my employees are eligible?

Most who work in Massachusetts – including full-time, part-time, seasonal, per diem, and temporary employees. If the employee’s primary place of work (where their majority of hours are worked) is Massachusetts, then they are eligible. The law doesn’t apply to independent contractors.

3. Is there a minimum number of hours worked in order for my employees to be eligible?

No. Employees who work less hours will simply accrue earned sick time slower than those who work more hours.

4. How do my employees earn the sick time?

You have a few different options with regard to how you provide your workers with sick time. If you decide to allow your employees to accrue sick time, then one hour of earned sick time is accrued for every 30 hours worked (accrual begins on the employee’s first day of actual work). You may also choose to grant employees a lump sum on a monthly or yearly basis. Employees can obtain up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year.

5. When can my employees begin using earned sick time, and what can they use it for?

Employees can begin using their earned sick time beginning the 90th calendar day after their first day of work.

Eligible uses of earned sick time are:

  • Care of child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse.
  • Care for own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition.
  • Routine medical appointments or routine medical appointments of child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse.
  • Address of psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence.
  • Travel to and from an appointment, a pharmacy, or other location related to the purpose for which the time was taken.

6. What rate do I pay my employees for earned sick time?

For hourly employees, you must pay their same hourly rate. Sick time hours are not paid at overtime or premium rates. For salary employees, the same hourly rate means the employee’s salary in the previous pay period divided by their total hours worked in the previous pay period.

7. I own a restaurant and my employees collect tips as part of their wages. At what rate do I pay my employees for earned sick time?

Employees whose wages are based on tips or gratuities must be paid at least the Massachusetts minimum wage. Employees are not entitled to lost tips or gratuities during use of earned sick time.

Regardless of the measure used, an employee cannot be paid less than the state minimum wage. The Massachusetts minimum wage is $10.00 per hour. On January 1, 2017, the minimum wage will be $11.00 per hour.

8. What if I already have a generous Paid Time Off (PTO) policy?

Many employers do. The good news is, if your current PTO or sick time policy meets the criteria of the new law, you don’t need to change anything.

Employees need to be able to use the PTO (such as vacation time or personal leave) for the same purposes and with the same rights that they would be able to use earned sick time.

Your existing plan must allow employees to:

  • Accrue at the rate of at least one hour of PTO for every 30 hours worked
  • Use up to 40 hours per year of PTO
  • Be paid at least the amount that would be required for earned sick time
  • Use PTO for the same purposes as earned sick time
  • Receive a notice of their rights under the law
  • Receive the same job protections

9. Do my employees need to notify me before using earned sick time?

Yes. The law stipulates that employees make a good faith effort to provide you with advance notice before using their earned sick time.

10. What sort of record-keeping requirements are there for employers?

You don’t have to provide earned sick time information on paychecks, but you do have to give employees access to their own earned sick time records.

In addition, If your policy provides earned sick time that is separated from any other time off, you’ll need to maintain records of the sick time that employees accrue and use for at least three years.

If you provide time off to employees under a PTO, vacation, or other policy that complies with the law, you’re not required to track and keep a separate record on accrual and use of earned sick time.

Click here for additional information on the MA sick leave law from the state Attorney General's website.



Get in touch with your Customer Service Representative to learn more about our MA sick leave report!

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