Sick time

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Greater Boston Legal Services

By law, most Massachusetts employers have to give their employees at least 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. They also must give up to 40 hours of sick time each year. In this article, learn more about sick time, when you can use it, and when it has to be paid.

How much sick time can I use?

Your employer must give you at least 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work, up to 40 hours of sick time each year. Once you’ve been working there for 90 days, you can take all the sick time your employer gives you. Your employer can choose to give you more sick time.

Is it paid sick time?

Your employer must pay your sick time if they have 11 or more workers. The 11 workers do not have to be full-time. They can work part time or be temporary.

Your employer does not have to pay your sick time if they have less than 11 workers. But you still have a right to earn 40 hours of unpaid sick time each year.

When can I use my sick time?

You can use your sick time 90 days after you start your job.

You can use sick time to:

  • Recover from illness,
  • Go to medical appointments,
  • Care for a sick child or family member,
  • Bring a sick child or family member to a medical appointment, or
  • Deal with the effects of domestic violence. You may use sick time to find housing, go to court, stay with a friend, take time to heal, or talk with an advocate.

If you do not use all your sick time in a year, you can carry forward the hours you did not use to the next year. But your employer is allowed to cap the hours you can carry forward to 40 hours per year. 

Your employer cannot make you work extra hours to make up for your sick time. They cannot make you find a replacement worker to cover your shift. 

If you know you are going to need sick time, you must try to let your employer know in advance. It must be a “good faith effort” to tell your employer.

What if my employer already has a sick time policy?

If your employer has a better sick time policy than this law, that is okay. This law is the minimum sick time policy your employer must offer.

Can my employer ask for proof?

Only in some situations. For example, if you miss work for more than 3 days in a row, they can ask for documentation. 

You might need to fill out a form to say you're using sick time for a valid reason.

Your employer cannot ask for details about your sickness or what happened with domestic violence. 

See Section 7 of the Earned Sick Time FAQs from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

What if my employer says I cannot get sick time?

You have the right to the sick time you earn. It is illegal for your employer to punish you or threaten your job in any way because you:

  • use your earned sick time,
  • are defending your right to sick time, or
  • are standing up for other workers.

If your employer does not let you use the sick time you earn, or retaliates against you:

If you prove your case in court, you can get 3 times the amount of sick time owed, plus court costs and attorney’s fees. See Defending Your Employment Rights.

What if I work part time?

You earn sick time and you have the right to use it if you work:

  • part time, 
  • full time, or 
  • are a temporary worker.
What if I am an independent contractor?

Many employers tell workers they are independent contractors even though they are really employees. See Am I an independent contractor? You can also call the MA Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, (617) 727-3465 to find out if you can earn sick time.

If you are properly classified as an independent contractor, then you are not an employee and this law does not apply to you. You may have other rights. See Defending Your Employment Rights

What if I work for the federal, state, or local government?

The federal government has its own rules about sick time. The sick time you earn may depend on your employment “classification.” Check the rules with your human resources department.

All Massachusetts government workers can earn up to 40 hours paid sick time each year.

If you work for a city or town, ask your union or local workers’ alliance about sick time.

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Learn more: See the MA Attorney General Office's Earned Sick Time page, Earned Sick Time Notice (PDF), and Does your employer's earned sick time policy follow state law? (PDF)

Questions? Call the MA Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, (617) 727-3465.


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