New business owner has questions on sick time law

Q: I just started my own business.  I have never owned a small
business before.  Some of my employees seem to know more about these
laws than I do.  Can you fill me in on this Mass. sick time law that
they all seem to be chattering about?

A: In November of 2014, Massachusetts voters passed a ballot question
which now requires Massachusetts employers to provide earned sick time
to many of their employees.  Some of our clients thought this law was
part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare,” but it is not.  It
is a state law, which only applies to employees whose primary place of
employment is in the state of Massachusetts.

The law went into effect on July 1, 2015.  Employers with fewer than
11 employees must offer up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to employees
in a calendar year.  Employers with 11 or more employees must offer up
to 40 hours of paid sick time to employees in a calendar year.

Calculating the number of employees an employer has can be tricky
though.  According to the law, the employer has to look at the average
number of employees the company has maintained on the payroll during the
preceding year.  However, full-timers, part-timers, seasonal and
temporary employees must all be included in that calculation, which
surprises some employers.  Employees furnished by a staffing agency must
be counted by both the staffing agency and the employer for the
purposes of determining the size of the company for this calculation.

The law also defines when sick time can be used under the law:

  1. care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a
    spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or
    medical condition that requires home care, professional medical
    diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care;
  2. care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or
    medical condition that requires home care, professional medical
    diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care;
  3. attend a routine medical appointment or a routine medical
    appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of
    spouse;
  4. address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence; or
  5. travel to and from an appointment, a pharmacy, or other location related to the purpose for which the time was taken.

For more information, including the required workplace poster,
visit www.mass.gov/ago/earnedsicktime.  The poster provides a quick
overview that could be very helpful to both you and your employees.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.