Here’s some advice for employers wondering how to comply with the new Massachusetts Earned Sick Time law - sit tight, communicate with your employees, review your current policies, educate yourself on the new law and watch for further guidance.
Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question on November 4 mandating that employers with 11 or more workers provide 40 hours of paid sick time. Companies with fewer than 11 employees will be required to provide 40 hours of unpaid sick time.
Approval of the new law has touched off a scramble among employers to review existing policies governing paid time off. One area of particular concern is the law’s accrual, carryover, use and documentation provisions, which leave most employer plans noncompliant.
Many employers want to get a jump on the July 1, 2015 implementation date for the law and develop compliant policies effective January 1. It is easy to understand why - most time-off plans run on a calendar-year basis. For budgeting and scheduling reasons, employers would like to manage one plan for all of 2015.
But hold on a moment. We currently lack many specifics and clarification is needed on matters such as:
- the coordination of the law with existing attendance, discipline and other employment policies;
- whether premium pay must be applied to absences taken under the law;
- the application of the law to seasonal employees;
- whether to count seasonal employees and owners when determining whether an employer has 11 or more employees;
- the coordination of accrual and use of Earned Sick Time in the second half of 2015 with the accrual and use of time off benefits in the first half of the year.
The Attorney General’s office will be responsible for issuing guidance on these and other matters. AIM looks forward to communicating the concerns of employers to Attorney General Maura Healy and recommending regulations to allow employers to manage budgets while retaining the value provided by current policies.
The prudent strategy may be to approach 2015 as a transitional year. No changes need to be made prior to July 1. Sure, waiting until then will result in having two policies for this transitional year, but employers will also enjoy the benefit of clarity and be able to issue a policy that will remain in place in 2016 and beyond.
Employers should not wait until July to communicate with employees. Workers should understand that the new law may impact current policies. A possible communication might look something like this:
As you know, Massachusetts voters passed the Earned Sick Time Law this November. We will likely need to make some changes to our current time off-policies to comply with the new law. It appears that the law will require us to modify how time off is accrued, used, carried over, documented and tracked. The law may also require that we reclassify some of our existing time off benefits as earned sick time. We will watch for guidance that may be provided by the commonwealth and announce changes to our policies sometime prior to July 1, 2015 when the law takes effect. In the meantime, we will follow our existing policy.
AIM will continue to help employers - first with first with a free Webinar on Wednesday, December 3 at 10:00 am, then with a subsequent Webcast in Januaryto help companies identify critical decision points. The association will schedule detailed workshops around the state once the attorney general issues regulatory guidance.