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.
Senator 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 The amendment was withdrawn, however, after it became clear that there was not enough support to pass it.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.