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Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Initiative: What It Means for You

Massachusetts voters recently approved a ballot measure mandating statewide paid sick leave for employees, a move reflecting national sentiment toward paid sick time.

On Election Day 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure mandating sick leave for employees who work in that state. Voters in Montclair and Trenton, New Jersey, and Oakland, California, approved similar measures, joining other localities with such leave laws.

The Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Initiative gives workers up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually, as long as they work for companies with 11 or more employees. Employees at smaller companies also get sick days off under the ballot measure, but those sick days would be unpaid.

The measure's successes reflect national sentiment towards paid sick time. According to a survey conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 69 percent of registered U.S. voters approve of laws that guarantee employee access to paid sick days.

Some lobbyists for businesses operating in the U.S. argued against the measure, claiming the move reduces company flexibility and adds another layer of onerous regulations for businesses.

But ballot measure proponents aren't surprised that voters didn't see it that way.

"Voters in these places have sent a clear message that they want public policies that address the needs of working families,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which lobbied aggressively for the ballot measure's passage.

Here's a more detailed look at the Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Initiative, which takes effect July 1, 2015:

  • Employers with more than 11 employees must allow all their employees who work in Massachusetts to accrue and use one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per calendar year.
  • Employers with 11 or fewer employees will be required to allow their employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave (the accrual rate remains the same).
  • Workers can use approved sick time to care for a sick or injured family member and to go to routine doctor appointments on their own or with a family member. The initiative also allows workers to deal with domestic violence issues for the employee or the employee's dependent child.
  • Workers can carry over unused sick time, up to 40 hours annually, into the next calendar year, but may not use more than 40 hours of sick time each calendar year.

Employers impacted by the Massachusetts ballot measure may need to update their sick day policies accordingly and consult with legal counsel if they're unsure how to accommodate the new mandates. Paychex offers HR services that include the assistance of a dedicated HR professional who can help your business prepare for new state mandates regarding paid sick leave.

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