Massachusetts law entitles employees to sick time off

Beginning no later than July 1, 2015, all Massachusetts employers must provide employees with earned sick time (EST). For employers with 11 or more employees, EST must be paid, while smaller employers need only provide unpaid time off. Here are some answers to commonly-asked questions about the new law. Please note these are only summaries which do not address all of the provisions of the law.  

  1. Which employers are covered? All employers with at least one employee in Massachusetts.
  1. Which employees are eligible? All employees, including full-time, part-time, and temporary workers.
  1. For what purposes can EST be used by the employee? To care for the employee’s physical or mental illness, injury or condition; to care for a child, parent, spouse or spouse’s parent with a physical or mental illness, injury or condition; for routine medical appointments; or to address the effects of domestic violence.
  1. Is EST paid or unpaid? For employers with 11 or more full-time, part-time or temporary employees, EST must be paid. Smaller employers must provide EST, but it can be unpaid.
  1. How do employees accrue EST? EST accrues at the rate of one hour for every thirty hours worked, to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
  1. When can EST be used? After 90 days of employment, although it accrues from day one.
  1. Can unused EST be carried over from year to year? It can be carried over to the next calendar year, but employees can use no more than 40 hours per year.
  1. What if my company already provides sick time? Employers with policies which provide at least the same benefits as those required by the new law do not need to change their policies.  Existing policies must allow at least the same amount of time off, under the same terms and conditions, as the new EST law. Existing contracts, collective bargaining agreements and policies which provide greater rights than the new law are not affected by the law.
  1. Does EST need to be paid out upon termination?
  2. Can an employee make up the time off without using EST? Yes, if the employee and employer both agree, the employee can make up the time off by working the same number of hours in the same or next pay period. Please note that if this results in more than 40 hours of work by a non-exempt employee in a week, the employee must be paid at the required overtime rate.
  3. Can EST only be used in full day increments? No, employers must allow EST to be used in hourly increments or the smallest increment that the payroll system uses to account for absences or the use of other time.
  1. Can employees be required to provide documentation? Yes, if the employee uses EST for more than 24 consecutive work hours.
  2. Must employees provide advance notice that they need to take time off? If the use of EST is foreseeable, employees must make a good faith effort to provide advance notice.
  3. Are employers required to notify employees of their rights to EST? Yes. The attorney general will prepare a notice which must be posted in the workplace. Employers with existing policies or handbooks may choose to include an EST policy in the handbook.


At Boston Employment Law PC, we represent both employers and employees with respect to a wide variety of employment law issues. For more information, please contact Howard Brown at or at (617) 566-8090.

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