Safe Harbor Update and Model Employer Notification Poster

In May, Attorney General Maura Healey announced her decision to issue safe harbor from the Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave Law for employers with existing paid time off policies. Yesterday, in response to growing concerns from the employer community, the AGO issued an update providing further guidance as to how employers are to comply with the safe harbor provision. The AGO’s clarification may make the safe harbor a viable option to more employers than originally anticipated.

The safe harbor provides qualifying employers a six-month transition period before they must bring their policies into compliance with requirements specified in the law. An employer is eligible to take advantage of the safe harbor if:

The employer had a policy in place as of May 1, 2015 that provides full-time employees at least 30 hours of paid time off, AND
By July 1, 2015, the employer extends the existing policy to all employees not previously covered (part-timers, new employees, per-diems).
The AGO’s update provides further clarification to employers as to how they are to meet the second prong of this eligibility test based on the type of accrual their policy uses. The AGO’s update provides the following guidance for employers:

If the policy requires accrual of paid time off, then employees not previously covered must be able to accrue time at the same rate as covered full-time employees.
If the existing policy provides a lump sum of paid time off, then employees not previously covered must receive that lump sum prorated by the newly covered employee’s date of hire compared to the existing policy’s calendar year, and/or by the employee’s status as a part-time employee.
For example, if a policy provides full-timers an annual lump sum of 30 hours on January 1st, then a new full-time worker covered as of July 1st must receive at least 15 hours. If that new worker is a part-timer, they must receive at least 7.5 hours.
Employers eligible to take advantage of the safe harbor will be in full compliance with the law through December 31, 2015 as long as the leave they offer is (1) job protected, (2) available for the purposes outlined in the law, and (3) allowed to be carried over beyond January 1, 2016 if unused.

Employers taking the safe harbor will still have to bring their policies into compliance with the requirements of the law by January 1, 2016. Employers not meeting these criteria are required to adopt and implement a compliant policy by July, 1 2015.

In addition to the safe harbor update, the AGO also issued a model employer notification poster which may be used to comply with the notification requirement of the law. A copy of the poster and additional information regarding the Paid Sick Leave Law may be found here.

RAM is still anticipating the AGO’s final regulations to be issued by June 19th. As always RAM will keep members apprised of new developments.

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