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Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law

This is a law that applies—in some cases—to Boston College student employees.  The following information, including the Questions and Answers section, will assist hourly-paid/weekly payroll student employees and their employers in understanding this law.

Most undergraduate and graduate students will not be eligible to accrue any sick time because this law does not apply to students who (a) participate in the Federal Work-Study (FWS) Program or substantially similar financial aid or scholarship program; (b) provide support services to residents of a residence hall in exchange for a waiver or reduction of room, board, tuition, or other education-related expenses; or (c) are exempt from FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax.  The FICA tax and FWS exemptions effectively eliminate Boston College students from sick time eligibility during the academic year.

However, during the summer, most Boston College student employees do pay FICA tax on their wages and, therefore, are not exempt from this law during the summer period.  (An exception would be any doctoral student who is enrolled during the summer and also works but does not have FICA withheld.)  Although many students work through the FWS Program during the summer, which would still make them exempt from this law, both the Office of Student Services and Human Resources decided that student employees will be eligible to accrue and use sick time hours during the summer student employment period only.  Student employees who accrue hours during the summer will not be able to use those hours if they work during the academic year since they are effectively exempt from this law during the academic year.  They will be able to carry over and use available accrued hours during the following summer student employment period as long as the break in eligible service is no longer than 12 months.

Questions & Answers:

1. How and when is sick time earned under this law?

Student employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked during our summer employment period.  Student employees begin earning sick time under this law as of July 1, 2015, or on their date of hire if later.

2. What is the “benefit year” for purposes of tracking sick time under this law?

At Boston College, for students it is the defined Summer Student Employment Period, which begins the Sunday before Commencement and continues until the Saturday prior to the start of the next academic year.  In compliance with the University’s Student Hours policy statement, students may work up to a total of 40 hours per week and up to 12 weeks when working 30 or more hours per week during the summer, which would total 480 hours (40 x 12).  Therefore, students could earn up to 16 hours of accrued sick time during the summer (480 divided by 30 hours) and carry forward to the next summer Student Employment period any unused accrued sick time.

3. When can sick time be used?

It may only be used during the summer, and student employees may begin using earned sick time 90 days after their first day of work if they begin working for Boston College during the current summer, or began working last summer or worked during the recent academic year.  In addition, sick time may be used only after it has been accrued.

4. How do breaks in service affect sick leave accruals?

After a break in employment service of up to twelve months, returning student employees do not need to wait 90 days to start using their accrued sick time as long as it had been 90 days since they began working for Boston College.

5. How can sick time be used under this law?

In accordance with the law, accrued sick time may be used to:

  • Care for the student employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventive medical care.
  • Attend a routine medical appointment of the student employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent or parent of a spouse.
  • Travel to and from an appointment, a pharmacy, or other location related to the purpose for which the sick time was taken.
  • Address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.

6. Can employees use accrued sick time in less than full work day increments?

Yes.  Student employees may use sick time in increments as small as one hour.  After one hour, the sick time may be used in increments as small as one-quarter hour.

7. If a student works more than one job during the summer earning accrued sick time with both campus employers (and working two jobs doesn’t exceed the 40 hours per week policy), can that student use accrued sick time for either summer job?

Yes.  Time accrued from working at one job can be used with the other job, and the student will be paid the wage from whichever job the student is scheduled to work when accrued sick time is used.

8. Will earned sick time carry over from one summer to the next?

Student employees will be able to carry over unused earned sick time from one summer to the next University-defined summer student employment period.

9. Will earned sick time be paid out upon a student employee’s termination from Boston College?

No.  Any unused sick time will not be paid out, in accordance with the law.

10. Is notification required when sick time is to be used?

Student employees should make a good-faith effort to notify their supervisors in advance if the need for using sick time is foreseeable.  If the employee anticipates a multi-day absence from work, she or he should provide notification of the expected duration of the absence or, if unknown, provide notification on a daily basis, unless the circumstances make such notice unreasonable.  If the use of sick time is not foreseeable, sick time must be reported as soon as possible.

11. Will documentation be required to support the use of sick time?

In accordance with the Sick Time Law provisions, employees may be required to submit documentation from a health care provider to their department certifying that the use of sick time was for an authorized purpose when the absence:

  • Exceeds twenty-four (24) consecutively scheduled work hours or three (3) consecutively scheduled work days.
  • Occurs within two (2) weeks prior to an employee’s final scheduled day of work before his or her employment ends for the summer.
  • Occurs after four (4) unforeseeable and undocumented absences within a three (3) month period.             

12. How will sick time be tracked for hourly-paid/weekly payroll student employees?

For the weekly student payroll, earned sick time hours that were used will be reported through Kronos, as is currently done for many regular employees.  In addition, 100% of the paid sick time will be charged to the current department’s HR account on the employee’s job record.  (Federal Work-Study regulations prohibit the use of federal funding for any purpose other than towards paying a percentage of wages for hours actually worked by the FWS-awarded student.)  Two exceptions to this are:  students paid from Grants; and, Off-Campus Work-Study students.  In these two cases, used sick time will be charged to a separate University account.   Managers, as well as those who can approve hours in Kronos, will be able to view information about accrued and used sick time hours on the Leave Balance Detail Page in the Leave Accrual System.  Student employees will be able to view their information through the PeopleSoft Self-Service application – Payroll & Compensation/Leave Balance Detail, as well as on their check advice.

13.  Who should the student employee contact with questions about hours accrued/used found in Payroll & Compensation/Leave Balance Detail?

The student should speak with her or his supervisor who, in turn, can check with someone in that office or department who will be able to view information about that student employee in the Leave Accrual System.

14. Why can’t student employees earn and use sick time during the academic year?

If a student employee is exempt from FICA tax, that employee is exempt from the Sick Time Law.  If the student employee is covered by the FICA tax withholding requirement, such as during the summer, the employee must be allowed to accrue and use sick time.  In addition, a student employee is only eligible to use accrued sick time during periods when the student employee is covered by the Sick Time Law, so that a student is not entitled to use sick time accrued in the summer during the academic year; and, the reasoning is that during the academic year the student is exempt and not entitled to any benefits under that Law during that period of exemption. 

15.  Is there a public notice about the Massachusetts Sick Time Act, and does it need to be posted and made available to student employees?

The Massachusetts Earned Sick Time public notice can be accessed at the following:  www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/hr/pdf/ee_sicktime_notice.pdf and it is available for public viewing on the Student Employment website under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time subject heading on the main page.  It should also be included in any employee handbook (paper and/or electronic) made available to student employees by their campus employers.