Massachusetts Leave Laws

May 3rd 2024

Taking leave is necessary for employee wellbeing and promotes work productivity. As a result, there are laws at both the federal and state level to ensure workers receive time off for various reasons, from vacations and holidays to bereavement and voting. 

This article outlines leave laws in Massachusetts, detailing the categories of leave available to employees. There are two main types of leave in Massachusetts: mandatory and non-mandatory. Each type has its own rules and requirements, which may vary for public or private sector employees.

This Article Covers

Massachusetts Required Leave
Massachusetts Non-Required Leave

Massachusetts Required Leave

In Massachusetts, there are specific types of leave that employers must legally provide to their employees. The following categories of leave are prescribed under state law:

1. Earned Sick Time

  • Eligibility: All workers in Massachusetts, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, per-diem, or temporary employees are eligible for earned sick time. However, there are exceptions for U.S. government employees, FICA-exempt scholarship recipients, school-aged students under 20, individuals in educational or vocational training programs, independent contractors, and municipal employees.
  • Duration: Employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. Sick time is earned at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. 
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Earned sick time can be used for health-related needs, care for a family member, attending medical appointments, or addressing impacts from domestic violence.
  • Pay: Employers with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick leave, while those with fewer than 11 can offer unpaid sick leave.

2. Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)

  • Eligibility: To be elligible for paid family and medical leave, employees must have earned at least $5,700 over the previous four quarters and at least 30 times the benefit amount they qualify for. In addition, they must apply for leave at least 60 days in advance and notify their employer 30 days before the leave starts.
  • Duration: Massachusetts’ Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program provides up to 26 weeks of paid leave per benefit year, depending on the reason for the leave. The total paid leave available in a year is capped at 26 weeks.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: PFML can be used for various family and medical reasons, allowing more than one type of leave within a benefit year.
  • Pay: Benefits depend on the employee’s average weekly earnings, the average weekly earnings for workers in Massachusetts, and the type of leave being taken. The maximum weekly benefit is $1,084.31. The program is funded by contributions from both employers and employees.

3. Military Leave

  • Eligibility: Military members serving for the Commonwealth or local government, as well as reserve components of the US military have the right to military leave in Massachusetts. 
  • Duration: Reserve members can receive payment for up to 34 days during a state fiscal year and 17 days during a federal fiscal year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Service in the military.
  • Pay: Members are entitled to pay during their service, with the same benefits as other employees, including paid leave and vacations.

4. Donor Leave

  • Eligibility: Donor leave is available to state employees and Executive Department employees in Massachusetts for several types of donations. 
  • Duration: State employees can donate blood up to 5 times a year, receiving up to 4 paid hours per donation. Executive Department employees are eligible for up to 5 paid days for bone marrow donation and recovery, or up to 30 paid workdays a year for organ donation and recovery.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Blood, bone marrow, and organ donation during work hours.
  • Pay: Paid leave is provided for the time spent donating and recovering, supporting workers in Massachusetts in their efforts to make a positive impact on the community. 

5. Jury Duty Leave

  • Eligibility: All employees in Massachusetts, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and casual employees, who are summoned for jury duty are entitled to a leave of absence. 
  • Duration: As required by the duration of the jury service.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To fulfill the civic duty of serving as a juror in court.
  • Pay: Employees are entitled to their regular pay for the first 3 days of jury service. Beyond the third day, jurors receive $50 per day from the state, which is taxable. Employers may continue to pay the employee beyond the third day and require the employee to turn over the state compensation as a condition of continuing their regular pay.

6. Voting Leave

  • Eligibility: All employees in Massachusetts who request voting leave may receive time off. 
  • Duration: Up to 2 hours of leave, granted during the first two hours after the polls open. Most employees can vote outside of working hours, and typically no more than one or two hours are needed. However, an employee may be provided extra time if they have a valid reason and proof of voting, such as the name of the precinct where they cast their ballot. 
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To allow employees to vote in their district.
  • Pay: Employers in Massachusetts are not required to pay workers taking time off to vote. 

 7. Witness Leave

  • Eligibility: Employees called as a witness or victims of a crime are eligible for witness leave
  • Duration: The duration required for court testimony.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To testify in court as a witness.
  • Pay: Employees receive their regular pay during witness leave if they testify on behalf of a government agency. However, any fees received for testifying must be returned to the agency. 

8. Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

  • Eligibility: Employees or family members who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, are entitled to a leave of absence. 
  • Duration: Up to 15 days of paid leave within a 12-month period, if the employee works at an organization with 50 or more employees. Victims of violence can also receive unpaid leave for up to 6 months. 
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Leave can be used for dealing with the consequences of abusive behavior, such as seeking medical attention, obtaining legal assistance, or securing housing.
  • Pay: Leave that lasts longer than 15 days may be unpaid, although employees can choose to use their accrued paid sick time for such leave.

9. Volunteering Leave

  • Eligibility: Volunteering leave is available to employees who volunteer under programs such as the State Employees Responding as Volunteers (SERV) Program, the National Disaster Medical System, or the Red Cross Disaster Volunteer program.
  • Duration: Up to 1 day per month if they volunteer at an approved Massachusetts non-profit organization (7.5 or 8 hours/month; pro-rated for part-time employees).
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Participating in community or charitable activities, including disaster relief operations.
  • Pay: Paid leave is accessible to Red Cross volunteers, but not medical professionals volunteering on a national Disaster Medical Assistance (DMAT). Leave is unpaid for these volunteers as they receive compensation from the federal government, as special employees.

10. Bereavement Leave

  • Eligibility: Employees who experience the loss of a family member or friend may take time off work. 
  • Duration: Executive Department employees can receive anywhere from 1 to 7 days of paid leave.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To take time off work due to the death of a family member or friend. Veterans may also use this leave to attend the funerals of fellow veterans.
  • Pay: This leave is paid for Executive Department employees and veterans in managerial or confidential positions.

11. Inclement Weather Leave

  • Eligibility: Employees in Massachusetts are entitled to weather leave unless they are classified as “emergency personnel”. 
  • Duration: The duration of inclement weather conditions. 
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: During inclement weather, “non-emergency” personnel may receive weather leave. Whereas, employees classified as “emergency personnel” must report to work as usual. This includes state troopers, mental health workers, developmental disabilities workers, and correction officers whose duties typically involve the care and custody of patients and/or prisoners, or other critically important public services. 
  • Pay: While absent from work, “non-emergency personnel” must receive their usual rate of pay, without charge to personal, vacation, or sick time.

12. Small Necessities Leave

  • Eligibility: Employees in Massachusetts who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months have the right to small necessities leave. However, this policy only applies to employers with more than 50 employees. 
  • Duration: 24 hours per year. 
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: This leave can be used for “small necessities” such as attending school or dental appointments for a child or elderly relative. 
  • Pay: This leave is unpaid, as it is intended for smaller, personal necessities.

13. Holiday Leave (Public Employers)

  • Eligibility: Both public and private sector employees in Massachusetts are eligible for holiday leave. 
  • Duration: If a holiday falls on a Sunday, employees may take time off on the following Monday. Likewise, when a holiday falls on a Saturday, all public offices will stay open on the previous Friday, allowing for an extended three-day weekend. Managers and confidential employers may receive an extra day off in lieu of working on certain holidays.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Holidays and extended weekends due to holiday observances.
  • Pay: Public sector employees are entitled to paid holiday leave.

14. Holiday Leave (Private Employers)

  • Eligibility: Most private sector employees in Massachusetts, subject to the state’s Blue Laws and various exemptions, can take time off on holidays. 
  • Duration: Sundays and recognized legal holidays.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: The occurrence of a national or state holiday. 
  • Pay: Businesses covered by the Blue Laws may need to pay their employees premium rates if they work on Sundays and holidays. This policy applies to retail establishments with more than 7 workers.

Here is a table of official federal holidays observed in Massachusetts:

Holiday Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Third Monday in January
Presidents’ Day Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Day after Thanksgiving Fourth Friday in November
Christmas Day 25 December

If you want to know more about the rights of employees in Massachusetts, you can read our guides on Your rights as a salaried employee in Massachusetts, and Your rights as an hourly employee in Massachusetts. You can also learn more about Massachusetts Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Massachusetts Non-Required Leave

In Massachusetts, employers are not obligated by law to grant employees leave of absence for certain circumstances. Non-mandatory types of leave include:

1. Vacation Leave

In Massachusetts, unlike some other states, employers are not obligated to provide vacation leave to their employees. There is no legal requirement for companies to offer vacation benefits. However, if an employer does decide to provide paid vacation, the compensation for this leave is treated like regular earnings.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.