Paid Sick Leave in Massachusetts

All employers in Massachusetts must provide sick leave to employees.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Massachusetts was the third state in the country to guarantee paid sick leave days to employees. The law applies to all employers in the state. However, small employers are required to provide unpaid sick leave only. (To learn about other types of leave, including time off for voting and jury duty, see our article on time off work in Massachusetts.)

Who Is Eligible for Paid Sick Leave in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts employers with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick leave; employers with ten or fewer employees must provide unpaid sick leave. All employees of a covered employer are eligible for sick leave, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees. Sick leave begins to accrue on the employee's first day of work. However, employees may not use sick leave until they have worked for the employer for 90 days. Sick leave does not need to be paid out when an employee leaves employment.

How Much Sick Leave Do Employees Get in Massachusetts?

Employees can receive a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave each year. Employees must accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Up to 40 hours of sick leave must carry over from year-to-year, although employees are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of sick leave each year.

Alternatively, employers can choose to provide 40 hours of sick leave to their employees at the start of each year. In that case, they do not have to worry about accrual or carry-over rules. Any sick leave left at the end of the year expires.

If an employer already provides 40 hours of paid vacation or PTO, it does not need to provide additional time off for paid sick leave. However, the vacation or PTO policy must provide the same rights as the state's paid sick leave law.

For What Reasons Can Paid Sick Leave Be Used?

Employees may use sick leave for the following purposes:

  • the employee's own health condition
  • the health condition of the employee's "family member" (see below)
  • to attend routine medical appointments for the employee or a family member, or
  • to deal with the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence against the employee or a dependent child.

Massachusetts defines "family member" as the employee's spouse, child (including an adult child), parent, or parent-in-law. Sick leave may be used for home care, medical diagnosis and treatment, preventative care, and routine medical appointments.

Employees may use sick leave in hourly increments, or in shorter increments if already allowed by the employer's payroll system for other types of leave. Employers cannot require employees to take sick leave in bigger increments than the employee needs—except where the employer has to hire another employee to fill the employee's shift. Employers cannot require employees to find their own replacements or make up the missed hours at a different time.

Employees might be entitled to additional unpaid time off for certain medical and caretaking reasons. See our article on FMLA leave in Massachusetts to learn more.

What Are the Notice and Documentation Requirements?

Employees must make a good faith effort to provide reasonable notice prior to taking sick leave. If the sick leave is used for a pre-scheduled reason—such as a routine doctor's appointment—the employer can require up to a week's notice.

Employers may not ask for a doctor's note until the employee has been absent for more than 24 consecutive work hours or three consecutive work days. However, the documentation does not need to specify the health condition that the employee or family member is suffering from. Likewise, employers may request documentation when sick leave is used for domestic violence reasons. However, a signed statement from the employee is sufficient, and the employer cannot ask for details about the abuse.

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