June 2015: Implementing the New MA Earned Sick Leave regulations

June 2015 Meeting:

Implementing the New MA Earned Sick Leave regulations

Saleha Walsh from Insource Services, Inc. gave a presentation about implementing the new MA Earned Sick Leave regulations.  Saleha is a seasoned human resources and general operational management professional with 20 years of experience as a troubleshooter. Insource Services Inc. offers: full department outsourcing; generally part-time and long term; “a la carte” services including recruiting; assessments; trainings; and project/Interim assignments.
Under the new Massachusetts Sick Leave law, organizations must offer the following sick leave provisions: paid sick leave where there are 11 or more FTEs; carry-over of at least 5 days required; mandatory notice requirements; and earned sick leave that runs concurrently with other leaves (FMLA, etc.).

The new law applies to any person who performs services for wages, including the following categories: full-time or part-time; seasonal; employees paid on a fee-for-service or piece work will accrue sick time based on a reasonable measure of the time employees work (for example, adjunct faculty compensated on a fee-for-service or “per-course” basis shall be deemed to work 3 hours for each “classroom hour” worked); temporary employees; and paid interns. The important dates to keep in mind for implementing this new law are: July 1, 2015 – compliance with basic provisions required by all organizations; and December 31, 2015 – Safe Harbor policy development extension date for organizations with existing paid sick leave policies.

What if We Already Have a Policy?

Employers required to provide earned paid sick time who provide their employees paid time off under a paid time off, vacation, or other paid leave policy are not required to provide additional leave if: the existing policy meets or exceeds accrual requirements; leave can be used for the same purposes as earned sick time; and leave can be used under the same conditions as earned sick time. All employers should look at their policies for compliance and potential problems. Steps that employers should be taking now are: review and modify policies to comply with the mandate; review and change employment classification definitions (temporary, part-time paid time off ineligibility); keep in mind the spirit of the legislation and determine the least administratively burdensome way to implement compliant policies; and communicate with employees about your compliance and distribute or post the legal notice by 7/1/15.

What Should You Do?

The following are some questions that might arise in implementing the new policy. How much time do we give? Just 40 hours? Add 40 hours to existing time off? Cut into vacation / PTO? Accrual or frontloading? Can payroll handle accrual? Frontloading is the when full time exempt and non-exempt employees are paid for scheduled straight time they are unable to work due to sickness up to a maximum of 80 hours each calendar year; part-time employees are paid a maximum of 40 hours of sick time; and sick days not taken during the year will be carried over to the next year, to a maximum of 40 hours. Frontloaded time could be abused by employees. An accrual system is as follows: each calendar, eligible employees will accrue sick days not taken during the year will be carried over to the next year, to a maximum of five (5) days. An example is years of employment days accrued per month: Full Time 5/6 of a day (.83 days); Part Time ½ day.

Other provisions include: Sick leave can be taken in one hour increments by all staff; medical documentation can be required under a variety of circumstances but generally after 24 hours of such leave; and policies can include daily notice requirements. Employers can cap how much sick time is used (40 hours/year); employees can impose a 90 day wait for sick time use (may be a way to address temporary employees); and if there is a break in service, the employee keeps accrued time and must be allowed to use it upon return

Considerations for Small Employers

Saleha made some additional recommendations. If not cost prohibitive, go with a design that maintains consistency with your current policies and focus on the spirit of the law – to provide job protection and time for an employee or the family of an employee in the event of illness or required medical care. Don’t coast with the Safe Harbor period – make changes now and document them.  Implementation strategies can vary when they are more generous than the law. Make reference to the law in your policy rather than listing every provision of the law in your policy. Be sure to include any notice or procedural requirements.