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Massachusetts Leave Policy: A Guide for Boston Employers

Posted October 26, 2017 by Sasha Butkovich in Keeping Compliant
Business owners creating a leave policy for their company need to be familiar with state laws. Here, we outline the rules in Massachusetts.

Preparing a leave policy for your employees is no small feat. Laws vary from state to state, so it’s important for small business owners to familiarize themselves with the rules specific to their region.

For employers in Boston, there are some key areas of leave policy to know. From sick time and parental leave, to small necessities leave and jury duty, there are many regulations to keep track of. Below, take a look at an overview of leave laws for Massachusetts employers, and keep these rules in mind as you create your policy.

Of course, different laws may apply to your company, depending on your industry or whether you’re a federal contractor. It’s always a great idea to consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

Psst...we’ve made a comprehensive guide on creating company leave policies, so that you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. You can download it for free here.

Leave Policy Types

1. Earned Sick Time

Massachusetts sick time law generally covers all private employers, regardless of size. If a company has 11 or more employees, sick time must be paid. Companies with less than 11 employees still need to provide sick time, but it can be unpaid.

There are a couple ways employers can structure their sick time policy, and it is up to employers to decide which type of policy will be best for their company. First, sick time can be accrued by the employee, at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked, and up to 40 hours per year. At the end of the benefit year, an employee is also able to rollover any unused sick time, up to 40 hours, to the next year.

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Alternatively, employers can provide employees lump sums of sick leave hours each month or each year, again up to 40 hours per year. Of course there are some parameters around this, so it’s important to follow the applicable earned sick time regulations. If an employer decides to provide that lump sum option at the beginning of the benefit year, they won’t need to track the accrual of hours or rollover hours from one year to the next.

Employees must be permitted to use sick time for any of the following reasons:

  • To care for their child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care
  • To care for their own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care
  • To attend a routine medical appointment, or a routine medical appointment for their child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse
  • To address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence

2. Unpaid Parental Leave

Now for another big one: parental leave. Massachusetts parental leave law covers employers with six or more employees, and the employee must have worked for the employer for at least three consecutive months. The law states that employers must provide employees unpaid leave up to eight weeks for the purpose of giving birth or adopting a child under 18 (or under 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled).

Employers are free to offer parental leave longer than eight weeks, keeping in mind that they will be required to reinstate that employee at the end of the extended leave. Otherwise, the employer must clearly inform the employee in writing, before the leave and before any extension of that leave, that taking longer than eight weeks will result in the denial of reinstatement.

Another important aspect of this law to note is that it is now gender neutral. Both men and women are entitled to parental leave in Massachusetts. If an employer provides benefits beyond what’s required by the law, they must provide the same benefits to both men and women. Great news for all the dads out there!

As a precursor to parental leave, take a quick refresher on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), passed in Massachusetts in July 2017.

3. Small Necessities Leave

Another leave requirement that Massachusetts business owners should be aware of is small necessities leave. Companies with 50 or more employees must give employees up to 24 hours per year of unpaid leave to attend to family needs.

This leave can be taken for a number of things, like participating in a child’s school activities, or taking children or elderly relatives to medical appointments, dental appointments, or other professional services. Basically, this rule enables people to take the time they need to manage the health and wellness of their family—even if it happens during work hours.

4. Domestic Violence and Abusive Situation Leave

Massachusetts law also requires employers to provide domestic violence and abusive situation leave. This law covers companies with 50 or more employees and requires them to give employees up to 15 days of unpaid leave if they are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or kidnapping. This law also applies if an employee’s family member is a victim of any of the above situations.

5. Jury Duty Leave

This one is pretty simple. Massachusetts employers must pay employees for their first three days of jury duty service.

6. Veterans Day and Memorial Day Leave

Private employers in Massachusetts also need to be aware of a special law concerning veterans. Any veterans on your staff are entitled to unpaid leave to participate in a parade, exercise, or service for Veterans Day or Memorial day. For companies with 50 or more employees, this leave must be paid. However, employees aren’t eligible for this leave if their services are deemed essential and critical to the public health or safety of the company.

7. Crime Witness Leave

Massachusetts law also allows employees who are victims of a crime to take time off from work to appear as a witness in a criminal proceeding regarding that crime. Leave under this policy is unpaid.

Employers should also note that some of the above leave laws may carry posting or notice requirements. Make sure to check for any such requirements to ensure you’re being fully compliant.

How Justworks Can Help

At Justworks, we help companies manage paid time off for their employees. Once you create a PTO policy, you can set up that policy in Justworks. By uploading copies of the PTO policy directly into the Justworks platform, employers can electronically distribute it to employees and ensure everyone is on the same page.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.