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State Issues Final Sick-Time Regulations

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jun 22, 2015 7:21:06 AM

Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday issued final regulations for the state’s earned sick-time law, rules that clarify major employer concerns from the ability to use existing paid-time off benefits to preventing abuse.

health_careThe regulations outline conditions that will allow some companies to comply with the law through their existing time-off plans, as long as those plans provide employees with as much or more sick time as the law, and observe prohibitions on retaliation and interference.

The rules also assert that earned sick-time runs concurrently with certain other federal and state leave laws and that an employee who leaves for longer than four months and hasn’t accrued at least 10 hours of sick time will not be able to carry over any hours when he or she returns.

Employers now have nine days to digest the regulations before the earned sick time law takes effect on July 1.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which filed 19 pages of comments to the regulations based on thousands of questions posed by member employers, commended the attorney general for responding to business concerns under a tight timeline.

“The attorney general really was listening to the legitimate concerns of businesspeople who want to comply with this new law. We give her high marks for this,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“AIM has worked with employers throughout the regulation and process and is now prepared to help those employers understand the regulations and comply with them.”

AIM will conduct a series of seminars throughout the commonwealth during July that will review specifics of the regulations and look at a model policy and sample documents.

Among the issues of interest to employers in the final regulations:

  • An employer may require documentation for absence that exceeds three consecutive days; that occurs within two weeks of leaving a position; after four unforeseeable absences in a three- month period; or after three unforeseeable absences in a three-month period for employees 17 or under.
  • Employees using earned sick time are compensated at their regular rate of pay, plus any shift differential. Overtime and contributions to health insurance or other benefits are excluded.
  • Employees with multiple rates of pay may be compensated for earned sick time either at the rate that would have applied on the date of absence or at a blended rate calculated on the prior pay period, month, quarter or other period of time.
  • Piecework employees accrue sick time through a reasonable projection of hours worked based on established practices or billing.
  • Earned sick time may not be used as an excuse for being late without an authorized purpose.
  • An employee may not accept a shift assignment with the intention of calling out sick for all or part of the shift.
  • The employer may discipline employees for clear pattern of using earned sick time before or after weekends or holidays.
  • The minimum increment of time for using earned sick time is one hour, though employers may use fractions of an hour for time more than an hour if their payroll system can track such fractions.
  • Employers that provide 40 hours of paid time off in a lump sum at the start of the year do not have to track accruals or allow the carryover of earned sick time from year to year, provided the use of the time is consistent with earned sick time.
  • Employers may opt to delay accruals of earned sick time for employees with a bank of 40 hours until the bank is reduced below 40 hours.
  • Employers that choose to offer time off through a paid time-off or vacation policy that complies with the earned sick time law do not have to track and keep a separate record of earned sick time use.
  • Employers using existing paid time-off policies must ensure that all used time enjoys the same job protection. The employer may have different policies for different groups of employees as long as all employees accrue and use same amount of time under same conditions.

Employers must also determine during the next several days whether they wish to seek the “safe harbor” that will provide them a six-month transition period for complying with the earned sick time law. Companies seeking the safe harbor are required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full and part-time.

Register for an AIM Earned Sick-Time Seminar

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days, Attorney General Maura Healey

AG Updates Safe-Harbor Rules for Sick-Time Law

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jun 10, 2015 11:17:37 AM

Attorney General Maura Healey today issued updated rules for companies seeking to qualify for the “safe harbor” provision of the new state Earned Sick-Time law by extending paid time off to part-time employees.

SneezeHealey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.

The update issued by the attorney general today allows employers to extend earned sick time proportionally to part-time employees and to employees hired after July 1.

Healey also issued the Earned Sick Time notice that employers will be required to post in the workplace. The notice contains several important elements, including the fact that the smallest increment of sick time that employees may take is one hour and that sick time “cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without advance notice of a proper use.”

“The attorney general’s office has, once again, showed a willingness to listen to the comments of employers who wish to comply in good faith with the Earned Sick-Time law. These updates provide clarity as employers work to align their existing paid time-off plans with the new regulations,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

The safe harbor transition allows any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016. The time off must be job protected.

The provision is intended to address concerns among employers that they will not be able to adjust their payroll systems during the short period between the issuance of final regulations later this month and the July 1 effective date of the law approved by Massachusetts voters.

The updated regulations address the issue of part-time and new employees as follows:

“On and after July 1, 2015, all employees not previously covered by the policy, including part-time employees, new employees, and per diem employees must either accrue paid time off at the same rate of accrual as covered full-time employees; or if the policy provides lump sum allocations, receive a prorated lump sum allocation based on the provision of lump sum paid time off/sick leave to covered full-time employees.

“Such lump sum allocations may:

  • where lump sums of paid time off are provided annually, be halved for employees who receive coverage as of July 1, 2015, and proportionately reduced for employees hired after July 1, 2015; and/or 
  • be proportionate for part-time employees.

The update and poster are available for download on the attorney general’s Earned Sick Time Web site: www.mass.gov/ago/earnedsicktime.

AIM urges employers to read the full text of the safe harbor update and to make comments to elected officials using the AIMVoice button, below. Today is the final day of the Notice and Comment period on the Earned Sick-Time Regulations.

  Take Action  Contact Elected Officials

Topics: Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days, Attorney General Maura Healey

AIM Submits Comments on Sick-Time Regulations

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jun 8, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts filed 19 pages of comments to the proposed Earned Sick Time regulations Saturday as Attorney General Maura Healey and the business community continued to discuss a clarification of the “safe harbor” provision for companies that wish to extend existing paid time-off programs to part-time workers.

AG.Maura.HealeyHealey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. The safe harbor transition allowed any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016.

Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers have questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.

AIM has proposed that companies qualify for the six-month transition by extending leave proportionally to part-time employees. So if full-timers qualify for 30 hours of leave, half-time employees would earn 15 hours. Discussions are ongoing, but no final agreement had been reached as of the week-end.

AIM’s formal comments seek to clarify the regulations employers will have to follow under the new law and head off an expected onslaught of lawsuits growing out of inconsistencies in the rules.

“While the safe harbor provision does provide relief, it does not prevent creative attorneys from filing lawsuits.  We are concerned that after July 1 many businesses will be subjected to lawsuits from aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to leverage the commonwealth’s treble damages statute that provides for attorney’s fees under the law,” the comments state.

“AIM believes that like the state’s healthcare and data security laws, the earned sick time law will take time, effort and money to implement properly and responsibly.”

AIM maintains in its comments that many of the proposed earned sick-time regulations are not supported by the statute. 

Specific recommendations include:

  • Change the one-year break-in-service provision to four months to align with federal health care reform.
  • Require employees to explicitly tell employers whether the time off they seek is earned sick time.
  • Allow employers to discipline employees who fail to comply with reasonable documentation requirements.
  • Allow employers to terminate workers who have engaged in fraud and abuse of the earned sick-time law.
  • Count only hours worked in Massachusetts toward the accrual of earned sick time.

AIM’s comments were distilled from thousands of responses and questions posed by employers across Massachusetts. More than 700 companies participated in a recent AIM Webinar explaining the proposed regulations.

Attorney General Healey is expected to issue final regulations later this month.

Take Action  Contact Elected Officials

 

VoterVoice Call to Action: https://www.votervoice.net/AIM/campaigns/40134/respond

Topics: Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days, Attorney General Maura Healey

Attorney General Offers Transition to Companies with Paid Leave Policies

Posted by John Regan on May 17, 2015 9:04:00 PM

Employers who offer sick leave or paid time off to workers now have a six-month transition period to comply with the state’s paid sick-time law under a new policy to be announced today by Attorney General Maura Healey.

AG.Maura.HealeyThe provision provides much-needed breathing room for employers, many of whom maintain they will be unable to adjust their payroll systems and implement the complex new law by its scheduled July 1 effective date.

Healey, who is currently developing regulations for the law approved by voters on November 4, announced that any employer with a paid time off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 will be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016.

Employers seeking the “Safe Harbor” protection must extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time. Companies that do not currently offer paid time off to part-time workers may add those workers to their leave plans to qualify for the transition period.

Any paid time off used by an employee from July 1 to December 31 must be job-protected leave subject to the law’s non-retaliation and non-interference provisions. In all other respects during this transition period, the employer may continue to administer paid time off under current policies.

Companies meeting these qualifications must come into compliance by January 1. Companies that did not maintain a paid time off policy as of May 1 must comply with the new law by July 1, as scheduled.

“The provision represents a reasonable compromise that will allow employers already offering sick leave some time to implement the new law,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“Attorney General Healey deserves tremendous credit for responding to the concerns of employers seeking to understand a complex new law and to comply with its provisions in a responsible manner. Employers look forward to continued discussions with the attorney general as she develops final regulations for earned sick time.”

Announcement of the compromise transition period follows weeks of intensive discussions among the business community, the Legislature and the attorney general over a law for which rules and regulations will be completed only days before July 1. AIM member-employers sent more than 800 messages to state officials last week reporting that the statute raises questions about how to integrate its provisions with existing paid-time off programs.

Among the issues:

  • Employers must determine the 12-month period during which employees will accrue up to 40 hours paid sick time at a rate equal to or greater than one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Employers must also decide whether to pay employees for any earned sick time that exceeds 16 hours at the end of the 12-month period. Employees may otherwise elect to use sick time exceeding 40 hours during the final weeks of the year instead of losing the time.
  • Perhaps the most complex challenge facing employers is whether to replace or merge existing vacation or time-off benefits with earned sick days. Such combinations are fraught with danger since any time off provided under the new law requires no more than seven days of advance notice from employees and might not be subject to verification.
  • Virtually all employees – full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal and interns – are covered by the new law. And for employees who spend most of their working hours in Massachusetts but work in other states as well, all of their hours in all states will be used to accrue sick leave in the Bay State.

"We realize that the new policy announced by the attorney general is not perfect and that many companies, particularly those with large numbers of part-time employees, will face challenges. AIM will work with all employers to navigate the best course through this complex issue," Lord said.

Healey will today kick off a series of six public hearings across the state to gather comment on draft regulations published on April 24. Today’s hearing will take place from 10:30 am – 1:30 pm at 100 Cambridge Street in Boston.

The attorney general’s office will accept comments through June 10 before issuing the final regulations. 

AIM encourages employers who plan to attend any of the hearings to contact Brad MacDougall, bmacdougall@aimnet.org, for details.

Topics: Employment Law, Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days, Maura Healey

Legislators Resist Date Change for Sick-Leave Law as Employers Struggle with Regulations

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 30, 2015 3:28:00 PM

A day after Beacon Hill lawmakers again declined to delay the start of the new earned sick-time law, employers barraged AIM experts with more than 550 questions today about proposed regulations for the statute with which they must comply eight weeks from now.

SneezeMore than 600 Bay State employers used an AIM Webinar to express confusion over details ranging from which employees will be eligible for paid sick time to the wisdom of merging existing paid time-off programs into the new law.

“The overwhelming number of people who took part in the Webinar and asked questions underscores the problem that employers are going to have implementing a complex and far-reaching law for which only draft rules of the road now exist,” said Russ Sullivan, Vice President in the AIM Employers Resource Group and one of the Webinar leaders.

“This was the largest turnout for an information Webinar in my time at AIM and I know we had many other employers who wanted to attend but were tied up.”

The House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a budget amendment from Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-Reading) that would have delayed the July 1 implementation date for paid sick time by 90 days.

“So the regulations wouldn't be finalized until just days before this takes effect, so businesses will have only a matter of days to make changes to payroll and how they run their business,” Jones said during floor debate.

Other legislators disagreed.

“Payroll is fairly straightforward. I'm married to an accountant. I encourage members to stay the course and honor the will of the voters and allow this law to follow the timeframe,” said Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville.

The amendment failed by a vote of 113 to 45.

It marked the second time in as many weeks that the Legislature rebuffed efforts by AIM to change the effective date of the law approved by voters November 4. The state Senate turned back a similar amendment on April 16.

Sullivan and fellow AIM Vice President Tom Jones, Esq., told employers during today’s Webinar that the paid sick-days law will impact every Massachusetts company, as well as out-of-state companies with employees in Massachusetts. They also warned that companies with existing paid time-off plans may not comply with the new law.

Among the issues raised by employers:

  • Employers must determine the 12-month period during which employees will accrue paid sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Sullivan and Jones recommended using the same 12-month calendar or fiscal year for all employees.
  • Employers must also decide whether to pay employees for any earned sick time that exceeds 16 hours at the end of the 12-month period. Employees may otherwise elect to use sick days during the final week of the year instead of losing the time.
  • Perhaps the most complex challenge facing employers is whether to replace or merge existing vacation or time-off benefits with earned sick days. Sullivan said such combinations are fraught with danger since any time off provided under the new law requires no more than seven days of advance notice from employees and might not be subject to verification.
  • Virtually all employees – full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal and interns – are covered by the new law. And for employees who spend most of their working hours in Massachusetts but work in other states as well, all of their hours in all states will be used to accrue sick leave in the Bay State.

“It doesn’t matter what you classify an employee as. Applicability is going to be determined by the actual number of hours worked over time,” Jones said.

The Attorney General’s office has scheduled six public hearings on the draft regulations and will accept comments through June 10. Employers who wish to submit comments or to testify at a hearing should contact Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs, at bmacdougall@aimnet.org.

Contact the Attorney General and Your Legislator  Postpone the Paid Sick-Time Law

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Employment Law, Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days

Sick-Time Rules a Mixed Bag for Employers

Posted by John Regan on Apr 27, 2015 8:23:00 AM

The following article was written by AIM staff members Lori Bourgoin, Russ Sullivan and Brad MacDougall.

Draft regulations published late Friday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for the new Earned Sick Time law represent a mixed bag for employers.

FourpeopleThe rules are designed to help employers comply with a law currently scheduled to take effect on July 1. AIM has urged policymakers to postpone the effective date until January 1, 2016 since the state's six planned public hearings on the proposed regulations will leave employers inadequate time to comply with the measure approved by voters in November.

“It is enormously important now for employers to read the proposed regulations and provide comments about what is good and what remains a challenge,” said Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“Employers need to be part of this process since labor unions and other groups will be pushing during the public hearings to make the rules more Draconian.”

AIM has worked since November with employers and with the attorney general to address problems the new law may pose for companies that already provide workers with paid time off.

Most employers will be pleased with the following provisions:

  • The rate of pay for earned sick time for most employees is the employee’s base hourlysalary rate.
  • Employers may choose any consecutive 12-month period as their earned sick time calendar year.
  • Employers may cash out up to 40 hours or earned sick time at the end of the calendar year provided at least 16 hours are left to carry over to the start of the following calendar year.
  • Employers may provide good-attendance rewards and discipline in cases of fraud or abuse of the program.
  • The regulations allow for a transition year in which employers will not be required to provide more than 40 hours of earned paid sick time, and any paid leave given prior to July 1, 2015, will be credited.

Other provisions are disappointing:

  • Earned sick time applies to all employees, including temporary, part time, seasonal employees and interns.
  • Employees with a break in service of less than one year  return to work with full credit for prior service and prior unused accruals.
  • Employees who work in multiple states, but primarily in Massachusetts, will be able to count their non-Massachusetts hours towards their accrual of earned sick time.
  • Employers may not require documentation for earned sick time that is less than 24 consecutive work hours even if the time-off is taken before or after a scheduled holiday.
  • New notices, posters, policies and documentation requirements will need to be established.

The Attorney General’s office will accept comments through June 10 before issuing the final regulations. The six public hearings on earned sick time will be held as follows:

Boston Earned Sick Time Hearing
May 18, 2015 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM
2nd Floor - Conference Rooms C & D
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

MetroWest Earned Sick Time Hearing
May 22, 2015 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Ablondi Room Framingham Town Hall Memorial Building
150 Concord Street
Framingham, MA 01702

Springfield Earned Sick Time Hearing
May 29, 2015 10:30 AM – 1:30PM
3rd Floor Community Room
1350 Main Street
Springfield, MA 01103

Berkshire County Earned Sick Time Hearing
May 29, 2015 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Pittsfield City Hall Council Chambers
70 Allen Street Pittsfield, MA 01201

South Coast Earned Sick Time Hearing
June 1, 2015 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM Hearing Room
1 Government Center
Fall River, MA 02722

Worcester Earned Sick Time Hearing
June 5, 2015 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Main Library Saxe Room
3 Salem Street
Worcester, MA 01608

“We are grateful to the attorney general’s office for producing these draft regulations in such a short period of time. AIM encourages employers to review the proposed rules and to work with our association to ensure they work to everyone’s benefit,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

AIM will provide more information on the draft regulations in a webinar on Thursday, April 30 at 10 AM. Members with comments on the regulations should contact MacDougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org.

  Register for the Earned Sick-Time Webinar

Topics: Employment Law, Human Resources, Paid Sick Days

Senate Declines to Postpone Sick-Leave Law

Posted by Gary MacDonald on Apr 16, 2015 8:30:00 AM

The state Senate yesterday rejected an effort by Associated Industries of Massachusetts to postpone the July 1 implementation of the new paid sick-leave law. AIM sought the delay because employers have no clear instructions on how to comply.

Senate_ChamberSenator Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, filed a budget amendment that would have moved the effective date of the voter-approved leave law to January 1, 2016. The amendment was withdrawn, however, after it became clear that there was not enough support to pass it.

Attorney General Maura Healey, who is developing the regulations that employers will have to follow, opposed the effort to move the deadline. The Senate’s action raises the probability that the paid sick-days law will take effect three days before final regulations are in place.

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.

The law has touched off a wave of concern among employers who say that the 75 days remaining until July 1 do not provide them enough time to understand the yet-to-be-published regulations and to program payroll systems to account for the new law. One employer who already has a sick-leave policy in place reports that he needs at least 120 days to work with his payroll company to make the necessary programing changes.

Employers also face a litany of time-consuming administrative issues. For example, an employee who used to accrue 15 days of Paid Time Off (PTO) prorated over each payroll now will accrue 10 days of PTO prorated over each payroll and up to five days of Earned Sick Time (EST) accrued at one hour for every 30 hours worked. And re-characterizing existing time off from accrued PTO to EST may lead to an excess accrual and payout before July 1 to avoid loss of earned time that may not be carried over in excess of 40 hours.

“Massachusetts employers deeply appreciate the effort by Senator Rodrigues to provide adequate time to companies to meet their obligations under a complex new law. AIM worked hard on behalf of its 7,500 member employers to resolve these issues and we are disappointed that the Senate did not act,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM.

The proposed delay drew heavy opposition from organized labor, which paid for advertisements saying “Stop the attack on earned sick time for working families.”

The Attorney General’s office is expected to issue draft sick-days regulations later this month. AIM will brief member employers via Webinar on the draft regulations once they are published.

Employers with questions or comments on the paid sick-days law may contact me at gmacdonald@aimnet.org, or Brad Macdougall at bmacdougall@aimnet.org

Topics: Massachusetts senate, Employment Law, Paid Sick Days

AIM Seeks Clarification of Sick Days Law

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jan 16, 2015 2:44:31 PM

The mandated sick-days law approved by Massachusetts voters on November 4 touched off a wave of confusion among employers anxious to comply with the statute while maintaining a competitive benefits program.

Two_WomenThat’s why AIM today filed legislation to clarify the ballot language for both employers and workers before the law takes effect on July 1. The corrections bill does not represent an attempt to circumvent the will of the voters, but rather to provide employers with a clear roadmap on issues such as eligibility and how the new statute works with existing paid time off benefit plans.

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, says the measure reflects thousands of comments that the association has received during seminars, Web conferences and other conversations with member employers during the past two months.

AIM’s bill addresses the following concerns voiced by employers.

  • Employers were concerned that interns, independent contractors, and employees paid on commission would be counted as part of the employee threshold and would be eligible for earned or paid sick time.  The bill would remove those types of workers as part of the total count of employees and would place leave benefits for those people at the discretion of the employer.
  • Employers were concerned that the ballot language does not incorporate current payroll systems or the various types of shifts that manufacturers or nurses have.  Some manufacturers track employee time by the minute. Many nurses work 12-hour shifts.  The current law would allow an employee to take earned time off in minutes, a practice that would disrupt transportation of goods and delivery of vital services in the health care arena.  The bill would clarify that employees could take leave for a full work day or in a portion of the day, rather than minutes or a several hours of a shift.
  • Employers were concerned that the law would require them to eliminate their current Paid Time Off (PTO) systems, which are popular among employees.  The AIM bill would allow employers to integrate existing PTO systems with the new Act.
  • Employers were concerned that the documentation and administrative provisions would negatively impact attendance incentive plans.  The bill would provide employers flexibility on when or if documentation is needed. It would also give employers the ability to take disciplinary action when an employee does not comply with notification and documentation provisions of the Act.
  • Employers were concerned about when earned sick time would start to accrue and how much earned sick time an employee could use during the transition year.  The bill ensures that an employee may only be compensated for up to 40 hours of earned sick time during the transition year while allowing an employer to opt for a greater benefit during the transition year if it so chooses.

 

Topics: Employment Law, Human Resources, Paid Sick Days

Best Advice on Paid Sick Days Law - Sit Tight

Posted by Russ Sullivan on Nov 25, 2014 9:53:44 AM

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. 

Health.EnergyMassachusetts 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.

Register for the Paid Sick Days Webinar

Topics: Employment Law, Human Resources, Paid Sick Days

Employer FAQ | The New Paid Sick Time Law

Posted by Russ Sullivan on Nov 5, 2014 9:26:00 AM

Massachusetts employers wake up this morning facing one of the most comprehensive mandated paid sick time laws in the nation.

Bay State voters last night approved a ballot question 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.

VoteHereSignAssociated Industries of Massachusetts opposed the ballot question as an undue intrusion by government into the benefit decisions of private employers. AIM nevertheless acknowledges the will of the electorate on ballot question 4 and is now moving to help employers implement what will be a complex and administratively difficult law.

Last night’s vote must be certified by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Legislature before taking effect on July 1, 2015.

Here are some questions and answers for employers on the new Massachusetts paid sick time law:

1. How much paid sick time is a company required to offer?

Businesses with 11 or more employees will be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Businesses with fewer than 11 employees will be required to offer up to 40 hours of unpaid time to workers each calendar year.

2. How do I count employees for the purposes of the law?

Any person who performs services for an employer for “wage, remuneration or other compensation,” including all full-time, part-time or temporary employees.


3. How and when is mandatory sick time earned?

An eligible employee will earn a minimum of one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.  Employees will begin to accrue this earned sick time on their date of hire, or on July 1, 2015, whichever date is later.  Exempt employees will earn paid sick time based upon the assumption of a 40-hour work week, unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours, and in that case their paid time would accrue based upon their normal work week. Employees may begin to use earned sick time on the 90th day after hire.

4. For what reasons may an employee use earned sick pay?

An eligible employee may utilize earned time to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition, or to attend routine medical appointments for him/herself or one of the following relations: child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse. Earned sick time may be taken to address the physical, psychological or legal effects of domestic violence.

5. Can an employer require an employee to work additional hours to make up for missed time?

If an employee misses work for a reason eligible for earned sick time, but agrees with the employer to work the same number of hours or shifts in the same or next pay period, the employee would not have to use earned sick time for the missed time, and the employer would not have to pay for that missed time.  Employers would be prohibited from requiring such an employee to work additional hours to make up for missed time, or to find a replacement employee.

6. Are employees permitted to take earned sick time in less than full work day increments?

An employee will be able to use earned sick time in increments as small as one hour, or the smallest increment or the smallest unit that employer’s payroll system allows for taking time off.

7. Will earned sick time carry over from one calendar year to the next?

Employees will be able to carry over up to 40 hours of earned unused sick time to the next calendar year, but may not use more than 40 hours in a calendar year. 

8. Is an employer required to pay earned but unused sick time at the time of an employee’s termination? 

An employer will not be required to pay employees for earned unused sick time at the end of their employment.

9. Is documentation required to take sick time?

Employers may require certification of the need for sick time when more than 24 consecutive hours of earned sick time are requested.  But employers may not delay the taking of, or payment for, earned sick time because they haven’t received the certification.  The employee does not need to provide documentation for absences of fewer than than 24 consecutive hours. 

10. Does an employee have to provide advance notice of the need to take time off? 

An employee must make a good-faith effort to notify the employer in advance if the need for the earned sick time is foreseeable.

11. What if I have a Paid Time-Off program?

Employers with a Paid Time-Off (PTO) program that combines vacation, holidays, sick time and personal time should determine whether it makes sense to carve out sick time so that the mandatory paid sick time is not applied on top of their employees’ PTO bank.

12. Our business has a “good attendance” policy for our employees.  Will our policy be impacted by this legislation?

“Good Attendance” policies must be reviewed since the ballot question makes it unlawful for any employer to prevent an employee from utilizing paid sick days or to penalize an employee for using leave. “Good attendance” policies provide incentives to employees who do not use their earned paid time off.

13. Who enforces the law?

The attorney general will enforce the proposed law, using the same enforcement procedures applicable to other state wage laws, and employees could file suits in court to enforce their earned sick time rights. The Attorney General would have to prepare a multilingual notice regarding the right to earned sick time, and employers would be required to post the notice in a conspicuous location and to provide a copy to employees. 

Members with questions regarding the new law should contact AIM’ Hotline / Employment Resource Group at 617-262-1180.

Topics: Employment Law, Human Resources, Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days

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