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Business group calls new sick time rules a ‘mixed bag’ for employers

Associated Industries of Massachusetts is calling the state’s new draft regulations for earned sick time a “mixed bag” for employers.

Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday filed her draft regulations for the new law, created by a successful ballot question in November. AIM had worked closely with Healey on developing the rules, and its leadership had urged state officials to delay its implementation until January 2016.

But the group said Healey opposed AIM’s failed effort in the Legislature to postpone the implementation beyond the July 1, 2015, deadline. AIM, in a blog post on Monday, said the state’s six public hearings on these draft regulations are scheduled through June and will leave businesses with little time to figure out how to comply with the new law.

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Converting payroll systems to accommodate the new sick time accrual requirements “doesn’t happen overnight,” said Chris Geehern, an AIM spokesman. “They need three to four months to get their systems up to speed.”

The law allows people who work for employers with 11 or more workers to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, and employees at smaller businesses can get up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time.

Employees will earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work, and can begin to use their earned sick time 90 days after starting their job.

Under the new regulations filed with the secretary of state’s office, earned sick time can be used for routine or emergency medical visits and travel time if the worker or a family member is sick, or to address domestic violence.

In its blog, AIM said there was still much for employers to like about the new regulations. Employers can pick any consecutive 12-month period as their “earned sick time calendar year,” for example, and the rate of pay for earned sick time for most employees will be their base hourly rate.

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Retailers, which are required to pay time and a half on Sunday, are relieved that they will not have to pay that higher rate if someone calls in sick on a Sunday, said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

But AIM said its leaders were disappointed that earned sick time will apply to temporary, part-time, and seasonal employees as well as full-time workers, and that many employees who work in multiple states will be able to count their non-Massachusetts hours toward their accrual of earned sick time.

In addition, a seasonal employee who returns to the same employer in less than a year’s time -- say, a student who works at the same Cape Cod ice cream shop every summer -- will be able to carry over all his unused sick time accrued within that year.

“One size doesn’t fit all on this,” Hurst said. “Particularly for a small mom and pop business hiring teenagers, do those teenagers really need to have carryover sick leave?”

Healey’s office said nearly one in three workers in the state do not currently have access to earned sick time, and the majority of those people work in low-wage jobs. Massachusetts became the second state in the country to require earned sick time after Connecticut, although a wider range of employers are affected by the Massachusetts law.


Katie Johnston of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

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