Summary of Earned Sick Time Law for Mass Employers

posted in: Articles | 0

We have talked with many clients today in response to the passage of Massachusetts Ballot Question 4, the earned sick time law.

First, don’t panic.  The law does not go into effect until July, 2015!

Second, read the summary below.

We still have a number of questions and we expect to receive further guidance from the Attorney General’s office in early 2015.

Earned Sick Time (Ballot Question 4) – Implications for Massachusetts Employers
On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters passed Ballot Question 4, which requires many employers to
provide earned sick time for their employees. We have provided this summary for our clients.

  1. When is this law effective?
    Not until July 1, 2015.
  2. I have heard confusing info about company size.
    Employers with fewer than 11 employees – employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of UNPAID sick time in a calendar year.
    Employers with 11 or more employees – employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of PAID sick time in a calendar year.
    To calculate employee headcount for this law, all employees performing work (on a paid basis) should be counted including full-time, part-time or temporary employees. There have been additional questions raised on how to calculate headcount due to reductions in force or whether out-of-state employees are included in the calculation. We expect additional guidance from the Attorney General in early 2015 on this provision of the law.
  3. Explain when this new earned sick time can be used by an employee.
    1. If an employee has to miss work for the employee’s child, spouse, parent or parent’s spouse, who is suffering from illness, injury or medical condition that requires medical care; or
    2. to care for the employee’s own medical illness, injury or medical condition that requires medical care, to attend an employee’s routine medical appointment (or that of a child, spouse, parent or parent’s spouse); or
    3. to address the effects of domestic violence.
  4. Will we have to pay out accrued but unused sick time upon termination, as required with vacation time?
    No. A payout of unused but earned sick time is not required upon separation of employment.
  5. How will accruals work?
    Employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees begin accruing on their start date OR July 1, 2015, whichever is later. Employees also may carry over up to 40 hours of time into the next calendar year. 
  6. What about our current PTO policy? Do we have to abandon that policy?
    No. However, employers must ensure that their current PTO policy offers the same or a more generous benefit than the earned sick time law. A PTO policy must also offer that the earned sick time be used for the same purposes as outlined in answer #3 above. An employer’s PTO policy may needs to be revised and perhaps re-written for compliance purposes.

First Beacon Group LLC will continue to provide guidance on the new earned sick leave law in Massachusetts. For more information, please contact Pattie Hunt Sinacole at psinacole@firstbeacongroup.com or (508)435-9889.