The PTO Laws You Must Follow in Massachusetts

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There are currently no technical Massachusetts PTO laws regarding general PTO. Rather, the state defines sick time laws, requiring companies with 11 or more employees to pay their employees for sick time and offer a specific number of sick time hours.

However, companies with fewer than 11 employees do not need to pay employees for sick time, but they still do need to provide protected sick time hours according to the law. Companies must count all people employed by the company, even if they don’t live in Massachusetts, and they’re required to recalculate the number of employees at least once each year. 

If your company operates in Massachusetts, it’s important to be aware of Massachusetts PTO laws and sick time laws to ensure that you comply with the state’s requirements. Your company can choose to offer more beyond what’s required, but you’ll need a strong, clear PTO policy that defines exactly what you provide your employees.

Massachusetts Accrual Requirements

Massachusetts’ earned sick time law provides protection for Massachusetts employees who need to take time off work for illness. Employees can be protected under this law for up to 40 hours, preventing employers from taking action against that employee for using their accrued time off. 

States like Massachusetts that require paid time off in some form set their own mandates regarding how that time should accrue.

In this state, several types of employees are eligible for sick time accrual, including per-diem, non-profit, state, county, domestic, and unionized employees. Independent contractors do not fall under the protections of Massachusetts’ sick time laws. Also, municipal employees are not automatically included in the law, but municipalities can choose to follow the sick time law.

In Massachusetts, employees receive sick time based on the amount of hours worked. At a minimum, companies must provide each employee with one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Additionally, the law states that employees can receive up to 40 hours of sick time per year.

Unfortunately, employees working 30 hours or more every week do not have to receive more than these 40 hours, according to Massachusetts law. However, employers can certainly choose to allow higher accruals for sick time, but as long as they meet the 40-hour minimum, they comply with the law. 

Employers also do not have to allow hour-by-hour accrual. Instead, Massachusetts allows employers to pay their employees’ accrued hours as a lump sum monthly or annually. 

For instance, an employer might provide each employee with 40 hours at the start of the year to use as needed throughout the year. Or, the employer might offer 3.5 hours a month to total 42 hours by the end of the year. 

Massachusetts Roll Over Requirements

According to the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law, M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C, earned sick time that an employee doesn’t use can roll over to the following year. However, this depends on how the employee accrues sick time.

Companies that provide employees with accrued sick days—those that offer at least one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked—must allow employees to roll over their unused sick time to the next year. Employees can transfer up to 40 hours of these unused sick days to the following year.

If a company provides sick days using an annual lump sum method, it does not have to allow employees to roll over their unused sick days. However, employers providing a lump sum of sick time monthly is required to follow the 40-hour rollover rule. 

Employers that do not need to provide rollover sick time can still choose to allow their employees to take unused sick time into the next year. It’s up the employer’s discretion how many rollover hours they allow.

Finally, as a Massachusetts employer, it’s important to note that, by law, you only have to allow up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, even if an employee rolls over unused hours. For example, if an employee rolls over 15 hours into 2024, they begin the year with 15 hours and continue to accrue hours up to 40 or your company’s maximum allotment of paid sick time.

Massachusetts PTO Payout Requirements

Although Massachusetts requires all companies within its jurisdiction to provide sick time to employees, not all companies have to pay for that sick time. 

Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees do not need to pay employees for sick time in Massachusetts. Instead, these companies simply provide the required amount of sick time and are not allowed to fault an employee for using their earned sick time.

Companies with 11 or more employees must pay those employees for their sick time. As such, sick time technically qualifies as paid time off for these employers. However, the employer can include sick time in a single PTO bucket, but that bucket must include the minimum amount of sick leave as required by law.

Companies required to pay their employees for sick time should prepare to pay workers the usual amount they’d earn if they were at work. Therefore, hourly employees get paid their standard hourly rate, and per-piece employees get paid the amount they’d typically receive for their work or service. 

Salaried employees get a little more complicated since they don’t have an hourly rate. Massachusetts law says to divide an employee’s pay during the previous pay period by the number of hours they worked during that pay period to determine their hourly rate for their current sick time. 

PTO Requirements for Massachusetts Employees

Massachusetts PTO laws don’t all fall on the shoulders of an employer; employees also must follow a few requirements. If an employee does not comply with their requirements according to sick time laws, you may not be obligated to pay for their sick time. 

First, before using earned sick time, employees do need to attempt to notify an employer about their decision. This might mean that an employee puts in a written request a few days before taking time off or they call their boss to inform them of an unexpected absence due to a personal injury or illness. 

By law, employers may request up to seven days’ notice for any earned sick time absences that are preplanned, such as a planned surgery or doctor’s appointment. 

Massachusetts defines reasons for which employees can use their earned sick time under the paid sick time law. These include:

  • Time to care for the employee’s physical or mental health
  • A doctor’s appointment and travel time
  • Attending an appointment for a child, spouse, or parent
  • Time to care for a child, spouse, or parent due to an illness or injury
  • Medical or legal issues related to domestic violence

An employer can request a written verification of an employee’s absence to ensure that it aligns with allowable earned sick time use. The state offers a sample verification letter employers can use.

However, employers can only request additional information, like a note from a doctor, for verification if the employee used at least 24 hours or three days of earned sick time.

Other Massachusetts Paid Leave Laws

Sick time is the only type of leave that is required to be paid in Massachusetts by eligible employers, or those with 11 or more employees. Other types of leave, like parental leave or vacation time, do not need to be paid under state law. In fact, employers are not even required to provide vacation time, even if it is unpaid.

Therefore, when it comes to Massachusetts PTO laws, a company must first make sure that its employees have at least the minimum amount of sick time as required by law. With that said, you can create your own policy as you see fit, even including sick time in a single PTO bucket with other forms of leave that you’d like to pay employees.

If you go this route, you still need to make sure that you’re offering enough paid earned sick time, first and foremost. Use this earned sick time checklist to help you determine if you provide enough. Employees can also use the checklist to ensure that their employer complies with the law.
For more information about Massachusetts’ earned sick time laws, check out this helpful FAQ, which outlines everything you need to know as an employer.

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