On the Massachusetts legislative front, several employment-related laws take effect in 2013:

Fair Share Employer Contribution for Health Insurance

The major health legislation, An Act Improving the Quality of Health Care and Reducing Costs through increased Transparency, Efficiency and Innovation, changes the fair share employer contribution measurement in a small but significant manner. It raises the fair share contribution threshold, the point at which employers become subject to fair share assessment laws, from 11 to 21 full-time employees. Additionally, it no longer counts employees who have health care coverage through a spouse, government program, or elsewhere towards an employer’s fair share contribution. The rules go into effect on July 1, 2013.

Additional changes to the fair share law were made in the 2012 Economic Development bill, which will take some pressure off of employers who are found out of compliance with the fair share contribution requirements. Under the new law, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) must allow an employer 60 days, rather than 10, to appeal a finding of noncompliance. The DUA cannot remove funds from an employer’s bank account while an appeal is pending. Under prior law, an employer would accrue 12% interest on what it owed to the fair share contribution from the day it was issued a finding by the DUA. The new law forbids this practice while the appeal is pending, but may impose the interest if the appeal fails. Finally, the DUA must issue a written decision on the amount an employer must pay within 90 days of its final decision for companies with more than 50 employees and within 30 days for those with 50 or fewer.

Tax Incentives to Employers for Creating Wellness Programs

The legislation An Act Improving the Quality of Health Care and Reducing Costs through increased Transparency, Efficiency and Innovation also includes a provision that will provide employers an annual tax credit of up to $10,000 for instituting wellness programs for their employees. The tax incentives provided in the new law will take effect on January 1, 2013. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is expected to issue regulations with details on how employers can ensure that their wellness program qualifies for the tax credit.

Temporary Workers Right to Know Act

The Temporary Workers Right to Know Act amends existing Massachusetts laws governing the temporary staffing industry in three specific ways by: (1) requiring staffing agencies to provide much greater detail about new assignments to its employees, including the applicable wages, the duration of the assignment, and any risk to personal safety; (2) prohibiting staffing agencies and worksite employers from charging certain fees to temporary employees; and (3) requiring staffing agencies to reimburse their employees’ transportation on days where no employment actually existed. Certain professional employees are exempt. The new law will take effect on January 31, 2013.

Potential Legislative Activity

Several noteworthy employment-related bills are likely to be reintroduced in the coming legislative session, including: (1) efforts to mandate paid sick leave; (2) bills that would curtail or negate entirely the protections of noncompete agreements; (3) an attempt to amend the current definition of “independent contractor” that has been problematic for employers; (4) increasing the minimum wage; and (5) clarifying amendments to the provision of the Massachusetts Personnel Records Law mandating that employees be notified promptly of adverse entries in their personnel records. In addition, legislation providing protection to victims of domestic violence and their immediate family members by guaranteeing up to 15 days of leave from their jobs in any 12-month period, which already passed the Senate, is expected to be enacted into law in the 2013 session.