How much sick time can employees earn each year?

Employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year. Employees with more generous sick time benefits will continue to enjoy their more generous coverage.

How do they earn their sick time?

Employees earn their sick time at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.

How do they use their earned sick time?

Earned sick time can be used for the employee’s own health needs or the health needs of a family member, such as a child, parent, spouse or parent of a spouse. Earned sick time can be used for recovery from a physical or mental illness or injury, preventive care or medical appointments, and to address the employee’s domestic violence needs or those of the employee’s dependent child.

Do employees get paid while out on earned sick time?

At companies with 10 or fewer employees, workers would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. At companies with 11 or more employees, workers would earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time.

Can they lose their job, pay, promotion or raise because they use their sick time?

No. Question 4 would protect employees from being punished just for using their earned sick time.

What happens if an employer already provides some kind of paid time off from work?

If an employer already provides any type of paid leave policy, regardless of what it is called (paid time off, personal days, flex time, vacation, etc.), their policy is unaffected as long as it provides as much time as required under Question 4, and can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions.

When can employees start using their earned sick time?

Employees begin earning their sick time at the start of their employment, and can start using their earned sick time after they have been on the job for 90 days.

How much unused sick time can they carry over from year to year?

Unused earned sick time can be carried over from one year to the next, but employees can only use 40 hours of earned sick time per calendar year. Can they cash out their unused sick time when their employment ends? Question 4 would not require employers to pay employees for unused sick time.

Do part-time employees earn sick time?

Yes, part-time and full-time employees all earn sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.

Are all employers required to provide earned sick time?

Yes. As required by the Massachusetts State Constitution, cities and towns must first vote, in the city council or in town meeting, to appropriate the funds to cover earned sick time for their employees, or to accept the ballot law as passed. Also, the U.S. Government is not subject to this ballot law.

Are there any wage guarantees for earned sick time taken?

Yes. Employees at companies with 11 or more employees are paid their usual hourly rate while out on earned sick time. Workers who normally are paid less than the state’s full minimum wage (currently $8/hour) and make up the difference in tips are paid the full minimum wage.

Can employees change their shift or hours with another employee instead of using their earned sick time?

Yes. Shift workers are fully entitled to earned sick time and cannot be punished for using it. However, if a shift worker chooses to make up the time taken off due to illness within the same pay period or the next, their employer will not be required to pay for the sick time and the worker will not lose any accrued sick time.

What about existing employment laws? Why is earned sick time necessary too?

Existing employment laws don’t address the need for earned sick time:

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act does not cover short-term illness or the effects of domestic violence. The act provides for unpaid leave ONLY for employees in companies with 50 or more employees, for injuries or illnesses that involve continuing medical treatment and that incapacitate the worker or family member for more than three consecutive days. The FMLA also covers care for a newborn, adopted or foster child.

The Mass Maternity Leave Act does not protect workers whose absences are due to illness. The act allows full time employees in companies with six or more employees to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave before or after the birth or adoption of a child.

The Small Necessities Act may not be used for a worker’s illness or medical appointments. The act provides up to 24 hours of unpaid time off only for employees in companies with 50 or more employees for children’s school activities, to accompany children or elderly relatives to medical appointments, or to accompany elderly relatives to appointments for professional services.

The state’s Anti-Discrimination Law does not protect workers whose absences are due to illness. The act applies only to employees with impairments that substantially limit a major life activity such as walking, seeing or hearing, and it provides job protection only if workers with these impairments could perform their jobs with a reasonable accommodation by the employer.

There are currently almost 1 million workers in Massachusetts who can’t earn a single hour of paid sick time. They’re often left having to choose between taking care of the child they love or the job that puts food on the table. Question 4 would allow these workers to take time to take care of their health or the health of a loved one without fear of losing their job.

Emily KellerQuestion 4 FAQ