Time off work for family responsibilities

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Greater Boston Legal Services

The Massachusetts Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA) can give you up to 24 hours of job-protected unpaid time off from work each year to:

  • Go to your child’s school activities,
  • Go with your child to the doctor or dentist, or
  • Go with your elderly relative to the doctor or dentist.

Note: There are other types of leave that can give you time off for family reasons, such as taking care of a family member with a serious health condition. Some types of leave are paid, and others are unpaid. See Time Off Work for Family and Medical Reasons.

Can I take SNLA time off?

You can take SNLA leave if you are eligible for FMLA.

You are eligible for FMLA and SNLA if:

  • You work for a covered employer, and
  • You've worked for your employer for 12 months. And 
  • You’ve worked for your employer at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. This is about 24 hours each week. And 
  • (for private employers) you work at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite.

Covered employers are:

  • Government agencies,
  • Schools, and
  • Private employers with at least 50 employees. 
Can I take SNLA off for personal reasons?

You can only take SNLA leave for the following reasons:

  • Your child’s school activities.
  • Your child’s routine doctor or dentist visits. Or,
  • An elderly relative’s routine doctor or dentist visits. 

For example, you can take time to:

  • Go to a school conference for your child.
  • Go to a parent-teacher conference.
  • Go to a Special Ed meeting.
  • Interview at a new school.
  • Take an elderly relative to a medical or dental appointment. Or,
  • Interview at a nursing home.
Who are my children and elderly relatives for SNLA?

Your “child” can be:

  • biological,
  • adopted,
  • foster,
  • a stepchild or
  • another child you are legally responsible for.

An “elderly relative” is a person related to you by blood or marriage who is over 60 years old.

When do I have to tell my employer I am taking time under the SNLA?

Tell your employer you need time off in writing as soon as you can.

Your employer can ask you to tell them 7 days before if you know ahead of time that you need time off. If you do not know you need the leave ahead of time, tell your employer as soon as you can.

How many days can I take off to attend school meetings or medical appointments?

There is no set number of days you can take time off under the SNLA. But, you can only take a total of 24 hours in a year. Your employer can say you must take at least 1 hour each time.

What can I do if my employer says I cannot take leave, or they retaliate against me?

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you because you took SNLA leave. The employer cannot:

  • deny your leave
  • fire you
  • take any “negative employment action” against you, such as:
    • cutting your hours,
    • switching you to the night shift,
    • or doing anything else to punish you because you took SNLA leave.

Check your employee handbook, or talk to your union, human resource department, or a lawyer to learn your next steps. 

You can file a complaint with the wage and hour division of the Attorney General’s office


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