MA Sick Leave Law: What You Need to Know


Effective July 1, 2015, the new Massachusetts Sick Leave Law entitles employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time. If you have 11 or more employees including full-time, part-time and temporary employees, here is what you need to know:

Earned Sick Time

All employees are entitled to earn sick time.

Employees earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked and begin accruing those hours on the date of hire or on July 1, 2015, whichever is later. Employees may not use earned sick time until the 90th calendar day from the date of hire. After the 90th day, employees may use earned sick time as it accrues.

Earned paid sick time must be compensated at the employee’s regular hourly rate, and must be paid to the employee in the payroll cycle covering the time period when sick time is used.

Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused earned sick time to the next calendar year but cannot use more than 40 hours in one calendar year. Employers are not required to pay out unused earned sick time upon separation of employment. Employers may not require an employee to work additional hours or to make up for missed time.

Using Earned Sick Time

Employees may use sick time for the following:

  • To care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or their child, spouse, parent or parent of a spouse
  • To attend routine medical appointments or those of their child, spouse, parent or parent of a spouse
  • To address the effects of domestic violence on themselves or their dependent child

If the use of earned sick time is foreseeable, the employee must make a good faith effort to notify the employer in advance of using the earned sick time.

If an employee uses sick time, and if both the employer and employee agree, the employee may work an equivalent number of additional hours during the same or the next pay period as the hours not worked due to sick time used. In these circumstances, the employee is not required to use accrued sick time for his absence nor is the employer required to pay for the time the employee was absent. But an employer cannot require an employee to work additional hours nor make the employee find a replacement.

Employers may require documentation of the need for sick time if an employee uses sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. The employee may provide any reasonable documentation signed by a health care provider that indicates the need for earned sick time taken. The employer can require that the documentation explain the nature of the illness or incidents. Employers, however, may not delay the taking of or payment for earned sick time because they have not received the documentation.

Violations of the Earned Sick Time Law

The Attorney General will enforce the new law and may issue a civil citation to an employer for a violation. An employer is entitled to appeal a citation to an administrative hearing. Employees may file suites in court to enforce their earned sick time rights. Employers may not interfere with or retaliate based on an employee’s exercise of earned sick time rights. Employers are not allowed to utilize any adverse employment action against an employee for his using earned sick time or for asserting his rights under the new law.

Sick Time Policies

If a policy is already established that provides as much paid time off, usable for the same purposes and under the same conditions as the earned sick time law, employers would not be required to provide additional sick time. Nothing in the new law overrides the employer’s obligations under any contract or benefit plan with more generous conditions than those in the new law.

Preparing for the New Law

Employers will be required to post the multilingual notice soon to be provided by the Attorney General regarding the right to earn sick time in a noticeable location and to provide a copy to employees.

Employers should review their sick time policies to confirm they are in compliance with this new law. Employers should also be sure they have a system in place that calculates the accrual of sick time in accordance with the sick time law. Employers should document any employee agreements regarding the use of accrued sick time.


The final regulations were published on June 19, 2015. To stay up to date on the latest news and information regarding this new Law visit the Attorney Generals website by following the link below. We will also continue to publish updates to the law on our blog as July 1st approaches.

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