Massachusetts Leave Laws


The Massachusetts Sick Leave Law:

The Sick Leave law went into effect on July 1, 2015.  Massachusetts employers (with certain limited exceptions) must permit all of their employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. For employers with 11 or more employees, this leave must be paid.


Which employees are eligible for earned sick time?

Most employees who work in Massachusetts will be covered by this law. To be eligible, the employee’s primary place of work must be in Massachusetts. Employees include:

full-time employees, part-time employees, seasonal employees, temporary employees, interns who meet the definition of employee under state law and regulations.

How do employers calculate the accrual of sick leave?

Employees accrue at least one hour of sick leave per 30 hours worked. For accrual purposes, exempt employees will be deemed to work 40 hours per week unless their job specifies a lower number of hours per week, such as a part-time employee. 

How must an employer pay an employee who uses earned paid sick leave?

 An employer (if it has 11 or more employees) must pay an employee earned paid sick leave on the same schedule as regular wages. Thus employees must be paid what they would have earned if they had worked instead of using earned sick time.

How Does Carry Over Work? 

If the employee is provided earned sick time via accrual, the employee must be allowed to carry over at least 40 hours of unused earned sick time into the next year. If the employee is provided earned sick time in a lump sum allocation of at least 40 hours at the beginning of each benefit year, the employer is not obligated to allow an employee to carry over unused earned sick time into the next year. If the employee is provided earned sick time in a lump sum allocation at the beginning of each month, the employer is obligated to allow an employee to carry over at least 40 hours of unused earned sick time into the next year.

If an employee carries over 40 hours of unused sick leave to a new calendar year, can the employee use 80 hours of sick leave in the next calendar year? The answer is no. Employers are only required to allow employees to use up to 40 hours of earned sick time per calendar year. 1) Employers may cap the amount of earned sick time hours accrued at 40 hours, regardless of the additional hours they work. 2) Once an employee possesses a bank of 40 hours of unused earned sick time, the employer may opt to delay further accrual until the employee draws down the bank of earned sick time to below 40 hours


When can employees begin to use accrued sick leave?
Sick leave begins to accrue on an employee's first day of work, and can be used after a 90 day vesting period, regardless of the number of days actually worked during the vesting period.


How does an employer define a "calendar year?"

A "calendar year" is any consecutive 12-month period of time as determined by an employer, as long as that time period is defined consistently and uniformly to all employees, and as long as the definition of calendar year is distributed in writing.


May an employer discipline an employee who is abusing the law?
Yes. An employer may discipline the employee for misuse of sick leave.


 What documentation can an employer ask for?

When an employee's use of earned sick leave results in an absence of more than 24 consecutive work hours, an employer may require written certification by a health care provider. If an employee does not have a health care provider he/she may provide a signed written statement stating the need for the use of earned sick leave.  Documentation must be submitted to an employer within 30 days of taking earned sick leave. An employer may not delay payment until the employer receives written verification or documentation of the use of earned sick leave.


What if an employee is absent from work due to domestic violence?

 If the employee is absent from work due to domestic violence, the employer must accept any of the following documentation:

1) a restraining order or other documentation of equitable relief issued by a court of competent jurisdiction;

2) a police record documenting the abuse;

3) documentation that the perpetrator of the abuse has been convicted of one or more of the offenses enumerated in M.G.L. c. 265 where the victim was a family or household member;

4) medical documentation of the abuse;

5) a statement provided by a counselor, social worker, health worker, member of the clergy, shelter worker, legal advocate, or other professional who has assisted the employee in addressing the effects of the abuse on the employee or the employee’s family; or

6) a signed written statement from the employee attesting to the abuse.

An employer may never require further information about the employee’s medical condition or details of the domestic violence.

Are there any record-keeping and disclosure requirements that employers must follow?

Both the law and regulations require employers to keep and maintain complete records of every employee's accrual and use of sick leave, consistent with the record-keeping requirements prescribed in G.L. c. 151, §15. In addition, employers must post a notice of the Earned Sick Time law and regulations. The Attorney General has prepared a notice:


Are employers obligated to pay employees for unused earned sick time upon termination or at the end of employment?

No. Employers are not required to pay out unused earned sick time when an employee leaves, but may do so voluntarily.

Can an employer pay out an employee for unused time at the end of the year?

Yes, an employer is allowed to offer an employee a pay out of up to 40 hours of unused earned sick time at the end of the employer’s calendar year, provided the employer makes available to the employee at least 16 hours of sick time at the beginning of the new calendar year.