Massachusetts employers should be preparing for the enactment of two new leave laws: 1) Paid Sick Leave and 2)extension of the Parental Leave Law. Current leave policies should be revised, handbooks updated, supervisors briefed and employees updated.
Here’s a summary of the laws:
Massachusetts Parental Leave Extended
Massachusetts Gov. Patrick signed a bill into law that establishes parental leave in Massachusetts for both female and male employees. Effective April 7, 2015, the new law will replace the current Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MLA), which provides only female employees with eight weeks of job-protected maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Extending parental leave to male employees will require significant policy changes for Massachusetts employers with fewer than 50 employees, as they are not already covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which applies to both male and female employees.
Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave
Massachusetts voters approved a ballot referendum Nov. 4, 2014, that requires businesses to allow their workers to earn sick leave. Having a paid-time-off (PTO) policy in place can help employers comply with the new law, but only if the policy meets the statutory requirements. Under the measure, employers with 11 or more employees must let workers earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each calendar year. Those with 10 or fewer employees also must allow workers to earn 40 hours per year but the sick days don’t have to be paid. Both full-time and part-time employees are eligible to earn the sick time, under the measure. The ballot measure takes effect July 1, 2015. Employees must be allowed to begin accruing sick time on that date. New employees must be allowed to begin using their sick time 90 days after they are hired.
Sick time may be used if employees are ill or have a medical appointment, or if they must care for an ill family member. They also must be permitted to use sick time to receive assistance related to domestic violence. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next year, under the measure, but employers aren’t required to permit use of more than 40 hours of sick time in any calendar year. Employers that already provide their employees paid time off under a PTO, vacation or other paid leave policy are not required to provide any additional paid sick time under the new law, provided they permit employees to use at least 40 hours per calendar year for the purposes covered under the law. Furthermore, this law does not override any employer’s obligations under any collective bargaining agreement, contract or benefit plan with more generous provisions.