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.
The 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, for details.