New Mass. Earned Sick Time Law Takes Effect July 1

By Eric Cormier

Eric Cormier
June 24, 2015 — With the new Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law due to take effect next week, many nonprofits are still struggling to fully comprehend its complexities and how the law may affect their organizations.

Beginning July 1, 2015:
  • All Massachusetts employers must provide five sick days per calendar year to full, part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.
  • Organizations with 11 or more employees are required to pay them for their earned sick time.
  • Those with 10 or fewer employees can choose to pay employees for their earned sick time, but it is not mandatory.
  • Employees who have worked for an employer for 90 days are eligible for earned sick time off, which must be carefully documented by the employer.
The ability to use earned sick time goes well beyond an employee taking a sick day due to a bad cold. According to the website, earned sick time can be used for the following:
  • Caring for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent, who is suffering from a physical or mental health issue
  • Caring for the employee’s own physical or mental health
  • Attending the employee’s or family member’s routine medical appointments, including children, spouses and parents
  • Addressing the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence
Many nonprofits recognize paid sick leave as an important employee benefit. After all, it demonstrates that the organization values and cares for its workers and the well-being of their families. However, even those who support the law may have concerns about how they are going to handle the additional administrative burdens and costs, while recognizing that noncompliance may result in fines.

It is essential that nonprofits review their current sick leave or paid time off (PTO) policies immediately, if they have not already done so. Even organizations that offer PTO that far exceeds the number of days the state requires for earned sick leave need to amend their policies, inform employees of their rights and track each employee’s time off. Organizations that find this process burdensome may consider hiring a human resources provider to help with the ongoing administrative tasks required by the state.

Recognizing the lack of clarity regarding certain elements of the law, the state’s Office of the Attorney General (AG) provided a Safe Harbor provision on June 10, which stipulates that employers with a paid sick leave policy in existence on May 1, 2015, shall be in compliance with the law until January 1, 2016.

Additionally, recently, on June 19, the AG’s office issued final regulations clarifying key aspects of the law and providing more details regarding the safe harbor provision. There are a number of specific stipulations regarding the safe harbor provision, and nonprofits should carefully review what is deemed permissible during the transition period.

The transition period undoubtedly will help many organizations prepare for the law’s changes. Regardless, Massachusetts nonprofits should understand the law’s basic tenets and take proper steps now to implement it, thus ensuring employee rights and avoiding the risk of non-compliance and legal violations.

Eric Cormier is a human resources specialist in the Boston office of Insperity, a national provider of human resources and business performance solutions, whose clients include a variety of nonprofit organizations. Call 800-465-3800 or visit
June 2015