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Archived: AG Updates Safe-Harbor Rules for Sick-Time Law

Posted on June 10, 2015

Attorney General Maura Healey today issued updated rules for companies seeking to qualify for the “safe harbor” provision of the new state Earned Sick-Time law by extending paid time off to part-time employees.

SneezeHealey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.

The update issued by the attorney general today allows employers to extend earned sick time proportionally to part-time employees and to employees hired after July 1.

Healey also issued the Earned Sick Time notice that employers will be required to post in the workplace. The notice contains several important elements, including the fact that the smallest increment of sick time that employees may take is one hour and that sick time “cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without advance notice of a proper use.”

“The attorney general’s office has, once again, showed a willingness to listen to the comments of employers who wish to comply in good faith with the Earned Sick-Time law. These updates provide clarity as employers work to align their existing paid time-off plans with the new regulations,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

The safe harbor transition allows any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016. The time off must be job protected.

The provision is intended to address concerns among employers that they will not be able to adjust their payroll systems during the short period between the issuance of final regulations later this month and the July 1 effective date of the law approved by Massachusetts voters.

The updated regulations address the issue of part-time and new employees as follows:

“On and after July 1, 2015, all employees not previously covered by the policy, including part-time employees, new employees, and per diem employees must either accrue paid time off at the same rate of accrual as covered full-time employees; or if the policy provides lump sum allocations, receive a prorated lump sum allocation based on the provision of lump sum paid time off/sick leave to covered full-time employees.

“Such lump sum allocations may:

  • where lump sums of paid time off are provided annually, be halved for employees who receive coverage as of July 1, 2015, and proportionately reduced for employees hired after July 1, 2015; and/or
  • be proportionate for part-time employees.

The update and poster are available for download on the attorney general’s Earned Sick Time Web site:

AIM urges employers to read the full text of the safe harbor update and to make comments to elected officials using the AIMVoice button, below. Today is the final day of the Notice and Comment period on the Earned Sick-Time Regulations.