This post will guide you through employee leave laws for businesses and workers located in the state of Massachusetts.
Follow this guide to understand employers’ obligations for vacation time, paid time off (PTO), sick leave, parental leave, bereavement and more, along with state holidays observed in Massachusetts.
This page is intended for reference purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please see official government sources or consult a legal professional for actual legal advice.
No federal or state law requires Massachusetts employers to provide vacation time, paid or unpaid.
If an employer chooses to provide paid time off to employees, certain rules apply, and the company is required by law to follow any details laid out in company policy and employees’ contracts.
Employers may implement a Use It or Lose It policy in Massachusetts, as long as they provide employees a reasonable opportunity to use their leave before it expires.
Use It or Lose It leave policies mean that any leave not used at the end of the year is forfeited, and not carried over to the following year. Learn more about Use It or Lose It policies here.
In Massachusetts, earned vacation time is considered a form of wages, and must be paid out upon separation, regardless of the reason for separation (such as when an employee quits, is fired, retires or is laid off).
It is illegal in Massachusetts to enforce a policy where an employee forfeits their earned vacation time when their employment ends, no matter the reason.
Employees in Massachusetts earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year. This applies to companies with 11 or more employees – those with fewer than 11 must provide the same amount in unpaid sick leave.
Employees can use this sick time for their own illness, injury or medical appointment, for their child, spouse, parent or spouse’s parent for the same reasons, or to deal with domestic violence involving themselves or their children.
Besides any state laws or provisions written into employment contracts, employers in Massachusetts must comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles eligible employees the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for serious health conditions, or to care for spouses, children or parents with a serious health condition.
The following official state holidays are observed in Massachusetts:
|January 1||New Year’s Day|
|3rd Monday in January||Martin Luther King, Jr Day|
|3rd Monday in February||Washington’s Birthday|
|3rd Monday in April||Patriot’s Day|
|Last Monday in May||Memorial Day|
|July 4||Independence Day|
|1st Monday in September||Labor Day|
|2nd Monday in October||Columbus Day|
|November 11||Veterans Day|
|4th Thursday in November||Thanksgiving|
|December 25||Christmas Day|
Massachusetts Blue Laws cover certain restrictions for businesses operating on Sundays and state holidays.
Holidays fall into three categories: Unrestricted, Partially Restricted and Restricted.
On unrestricted holidays, businesses can open and no special rules apply to requiring employees to work.
For partially restricted holidays, businesses can open, but “voluntariness of employment” applies, in which employees cannot be required to work, and employers cannot punish or retaliate against a worker for choosing not to work on these days.
For restricted holidays, businesses require a permit to open, and voluntariness of employment also applies.
See Massachusetts Blue Laws for a full list of all unrestricted, partially restricted and restricted holidays.
Note: prior to January 1, 2023, premium pay was required on partially restricted and restricted holidays, however this has now been phased out.
Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) allows up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a new child, paid by the state.
The FMLA does apply, however, entitling new mothers to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth of a new child, as well as the placement of a new adoption or foster.
Fathers have the same rights under both the PFML and FMLA, allowing them up to 12 weeks of leave to care for their newborn or newly adopted child.
There is no legal requirement to provide bereavement leave in Massachusetts. It’s up to the employer’s discretion whether to provide this leave, and whether or not to pay employees for bereavement leave.
Employers are required to provide employees with three days of paid, job-protected leave for jury duty, paid at their normal wages.
Each day after that (four days on) the employee is reimbursed $50 a day by the state.
Employees in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments must not be required to work within the first two hours after polls opening on voting day.
Employers with 50 or more employees must provide employees with domestic violence leave, covering up to 15 days of unpaid leave for employees who have been the victim of domestic violence or abusive behavior, or whose family member has been the same.
Employers with at least 50 employees must provide up to 24 hours of leave per year for their children’s dental or medical appointments, elderly relatives’ medical appointments or services related to their care, or to participate in school-related activities for their child.
Employers with 50 or more employees must provide paid, job-protected leave to veterans participating in Veteran’s Day activities.
Federal Law (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)) applies in Massachusetts, which states that military service members receive up to five years of unpaid leave for military service, and upon returning, must be reinstated to the same position (or an equivalent position) as they had before their leave.
Anything not covered in Massachusetts state leave laws is up to the discretion of the employer, such as whether or not to provide paid sick leave or PTO, or whether PTO rolls over from year to year.
However, if any benefits are laid out in an employee’s contract or company policy, employers must comply with what has been agreed in that document.
For example, if an employee’s contract states that they are to receive 12 days of PTO each year, the employer is legally required to provide this, even though paid time off is not required by state law.