On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved Ballot Question 4, which makes Massachusetts the third state in the nation to guarantee paid sick time to employees.

The new law will be effective July 1, 2015. Under the new law, Massachusetts employers must allow employees to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick time per calendar year. Employers with 11 or more employees (including both part-time and full-time employees) must treat this sick time as paid time off; employers with 10 or fewer employees can provide the sick time as unpaid time off.

An employee may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year, but employers may limit an employee’s use of sick time to 40 hours in a calendar year. Notably, employers are not required to pay employees for any accrued but unused paid sick time at the termination of an employee’s employment.

The law specifies that an employee shall be entitled to use sick time for the following reasons:

  1. to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse;
  2. to attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent or parent of a spouse; or
  3. to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.

Employers may require certification of the need for sick time, but only when an employee uses more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours of sick time.

The new law does not prohibit employers from offering more generous sick time benefits to employees. However, employers who already provide sick time benefits equal to or greater than required by the law are not obligated to provide additional sick time.

The Attorney General’s Office is responsible for enforcement of the new law, using the same enforcement procedures applicable to other wage laws of the Commonwealth. Employers are thus advised to review their existing personnel policies to ensure compliance with the new law in a timely manner, and as appropriate, modify existing policies.