Massachusetts employers, including small businesses, have to comply with state and federal laws regarding paid time off, or PTO. To add to the complexities, not all PTO is treated the same.
The Many Types of PTO
Paid time off comes in a variety of forms. The most common are:
- Vacation time
- Sick leave
- Personal leave
- Bereavement leave
- Parental leave
- Jury duty leave
In Massachusetts, employers are only required to provide sick leave and jury duty leave. However, to attract workers, most employers in the state offer more than the minimum. Once you promise to provide paid time off, though, you have to fulfill it.
Only some types of PTO are considered wages in Massachusetts, though. However, if your company does not distinguish between the types of PTO you offer, and instead offer PTO in general, all of those accrued hours are treated as wages and must be paid out at the end of the worker's employment.
Paid Vacation Time
While Massachusetts employers do not actually have to offer vacation time off – whether paid or unpaid – most do. Once vacation time accrues, though, it is a form of wage. This means it vests when the employee earns it. If the employee has accrued paid vacation time and leaves work for any reason, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, employers must pay for any unused vacation time that they have accumulated.
However, employers can limit how many hours of vacation time that their employees can accrue, and can also implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that eliminates paid vacation time if not used before a set date.
Paid Sick Leave
Massachusetts is one of the few states in the country that requires employers to provide sick leave to employees. Under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law and its regulations, employers have to provide at least 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
If you have fewer than 11 employees, that sick leave can be unpaid. If you have 11 or more employees, it must be paid leave.
However, unlike vacation time, paid sick leave is not considered a form of wage. Therefore, any paid sick leave that an employee has not used before their employment ends does not have to be paid out.
Other Forms of Paid Time Off
Generally, employers in Massachusetts do not need to provide other forms of paid leave. However, there is one small exception: Jury duty leave.
Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 234A, § 48, employers have to pay workers who have been selected for a jury or grand jury for the first three days of their jury service.
Massachusetts Business Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
Making a mistake with your employees' paid time off can be costly for business owners in Massachusetts, especially small businesses that would be crippled by a lawsuit for unpaid wages.
The business and contract attorneys at the Katz Law Group can guide your company through the legal requirements in central Massachusetts, including Framingham, Marlborough, Worcester, and Middlesex and Norfolk Counties. Contact them online or call their law office at (508) 480-8202.