Employee Leave Policies and Massachusetts Law

September 21, 2016

Are you a Massachusetts business owner with an employee handbook? Do you review it regularly, or is the handbook being used as a bookend on your shelf? You are not alone! Many businesses with employees establish a handbook to communicate workplace rules, including employer leave policies. An employer must regularly review employee handbooks and policies, especially to revise these policies after changes in the law. Several Massachusetts laws changed within the last couple of years relating to employee leave that should motivate employers to review their leave policies.

In 2014, the legislature passed Massachusetts Domestic Violence and Abusive Situation Leave Act requiring employers of 50 or more employees to provide employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or a family member who is a victim, up to 15 days of unpaid leave during a twelve-month period. Massachusetts’s employers must provide the leave to allow the employee time to obtain medical attention, victim or legal services, housing or seek legal assistance.

The Massachusetts Parental Leave law, which became effective in April 2015, requires employers of six or more employees to provide unpaid eight weeks of leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a child with an employee pursuant to a court order. The former law extended the leave to female employees, but this law applies to both men and women. The Massachusetts law covers more employers than the federal law known as the Family Medical Leave Act (or FMLA, which applies to employers of 50 or more employees. FMLA requires that employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain qualifying reasons. These two laws may provide an employee with rights to protected leave depending on the circumstances.

In July 2015, Massachusetts’s employers of 11 or more employees, who work primarily in Massachusetts, will be required to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave to their employees. The law covers full-time employees, part-time and other types of employees. Employers of less than 11 employees must provide unpaid sick leave. As of the effective date, employers must start calculating one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or as of the date of the employee’s hire, whichever date is later. The employer must keep track of the employees accrued hours.

This s not an exhaustive list and this article only discussed a couple of Massachusetts laws related to protected leave for employees. Other states and federal laws may also provide protected employee leave for issues related to military duty, disabilities, work-place injuries, voting, jury duty, attending medical appointments with an elderly relative, and a child’s school and medical related-appointments. While it is very important for businesses to regularly review their workplace policies, these leave laws may require some businesses to change their current leave practices. This is merely a summary of some of the Massachusetts leave laws and it does not include advice on whether these laws apply to a specific business. Massachusetts’s business owners and human resources professionals should seek the advice of an attorney to determine if these laws will apply to a certain business and to understand how to comply with these laws.

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