2024 Updated Version

Massachusetts Employee Handbook

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Massachusetts handbook policies

Massachusetts employee handbook overview

Building your Massachusetts employee handbook requires the inclusion of both state-specific and federal policies. Regardless of whether all of your employees are based in Massachusetts or only a few, you will require a Massachusetts-specific handbook to ensure that your workers understand the policies and privileges granted to them by their state.

You can find the required state policies for Massachusetts, federally mandated policies, and other optional policies below.

What should be included in a Massachusetts employee handbook?

Every handbook should include Federal, State, and (if applicable) City-specific policies.  Below are Massachusetts-specific policies that should be included in your handbook. 

  • Massachusetts Sick Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide employees with sick leave. That leave may be paid or unpaid depending on the total number of employees in the company (not just Massachusetts).
  • Massachusetts Meal Break Policy: Employers must provide 1 half-hour, unpaid meal break per shift longer than 6 hours.
  • Massachusetts Emergency Response Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide leave for employees serving as a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical technician in response to an emergency.
  • Massachusetts Personnel File Policy: Employers are required to provide rules regarding accessing and copying personnel records.
  • Massachusetts Lactation Accommodations Policy: Reasonable accommodations are required to be provided for nursing mothers.
  • Massachusetts Victim Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide leave for employees who have been, or whose family or household members have been, victims of abusive behavior.
  • Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide employees with paid leave to care for family members when family entitlements and obligations arise.
  • Massachusetts School Involvement/Small Necessities Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide unpaid leave for employees to attend their children’s school activities or accompany them to appointments.
  • Massachusetts Voting Leave Policy: Employers are required to provide employees in certain industries with unpaid leave for voting.
  • Massachusetts Day of Rest Policy: Certain employees are allowed a day of rest after six concecutive days of work.
  • Massachusetts Jury Duty Policy: Employees are paid for the first three days of jury duty service and must be excused from work.

Massachusetts Sick Leave Law

The Massachusetts Sick Leave Law mandates that all employers provide their employees with sick time, allowing them to care for themselves or family members. Employers with 11 or more employees must offer paid sick leave, while those with fewer than 11 may provide unpaid sick leave. Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year, which they can start using 90 days after employment begins. The law covers a range of needs, including illness, medical care, and addressing the effects of domestic violence. Additionally, it protects employees from retaliation for using sick leave, requires employers to maintain accurate records of sick time earned and used for three years, and obligates employers to inform their workforce about these rights through visible notices and employee handbooks.

Here are a few key takeaways regarding Massachusetts sick leave policy:

  • Employees earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
  • Employees can carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next year, but the law does not require employers to allow employees to use more than 40 hours in a single calendar year.
  • Employers can require up to 7 days' advance notice for foreseeable leave. If the need for leave is unforeseeable, employees must notify their employer as soon as practicable.
  • Employers are required to maintain records of hours worked by employees and sick time taken for a period of 3 years.
Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave FAQ

For what reasons can sick leave be used?

Sick leave can be used for the care or treatment of the employee's or their family member's illness, injury, or medical condition; attending routine medical appointments; addressing the effects of domestic violence; and travel time related to medical care or domestic violence services.

What protections do employees have under this law?

Can employees carry over unused sick time to the next year?

Who is eligible for paid sick leave in Massachusetts?

Create your Massachusetts employee handbook now

Federal Policies

Don’t forget about Federal Policies

There are policies required by federal law in all 50 states, and so they must be included in your handbook no matter what state your employees are based in.  Some of the most important policies are outlined here, however, all federal policies should be included in your handbook.

  • Equal Employment and Anti-Discrimination Policy
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Policy (required for companies with 50 or more employees)
  • Military Service Leave
  • Get the full list of federal policies from the free handbook template builder
Federal handbook policies

Additional Policies

Other Policies to Include in Your Massachusetts Employee Handbook

  • Workplace Violence
  • Employee Conduct and Work Rules
  • Conflict of Interest and Business Ethics
  • Receipt of Non-Harassment Policy
  • Receipt of Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Health and Safety
  • Confidential Company Information
  • Insurance
  • Workers’s Compensation
  • Open Door Policy
  • Equipment and Property Including Intellectual Property
  • Sick Days
  • No Solicitation / No Distribution
  • Benefits Overview
  • Use of Communication and Computer Systems
  • Punctuality and Attendance
  • Holidays
  • Vacation Benefits
  • Benefits
  • Working Schedule
  • Employment Records
  • Inspections
  • Smoking
  • Pay Day
  • Overtime
  • Timekeeping
  • Employee Categories
  • Performance Reviews
  • Lactation Breaks
  • Direct Deposit
  • Company Vehicles
  • Personal and Company Owned Communication Devices
  • Personal Visitors and Telephone Calls
  • Hiring Relatives
  • Business Expense Reimbursement
  • Social Media Policy
  • Introductory Period
  • General Handbook Acknowledgment
  • References

Employee handbook requirements by state

Click on a state to learn more about policies and recommendations.

Poster Requirements

Massachusetts labor law posters

Understanding labor law poster requirements can be a bit like trying to decode a complex puzzle. You need to comply with both state and federal requirements.

Why Should I Care About Displaying Posters?

You might be wondering why it's so important to display these posters in the first place. State and Federal laws mandate that employers must have up-to-date labor law posters conspicuously displayed for their employees. Failing to do so not only results in steep fines (up to $35,000 in federal fines and additional state fines) but also exposes you to real liability.

Consider this scenario: if an employee decides to bring a lawsuit against your company, and you don't have the required posters or they are outdated, you could face even more significant problems:

  1. Statute of Limitations: Normally, there's a limited window within which an employee can file a lawsuit against you. However, if you didn't inform your employees of their rights through proper poster display, a court might decide that the statute of limitations doesn't apply.

  2. Operating in Bad Faith: Courts may determine that you were intentionally withholding information from your employees, which could lead to a finding that you were operating in bad faith. This can substantially increase your liability.

What Are the Requirements for Displaying Labor Law Posters?

Labor law posters must be displayed at every physical location where you have employees, and they need to be conspicuously displayed for all to see.

  • If you have a hybrid workplace with both in-person and remote employees, you'll need physical posters at your facilities and electronic distribution to your off-site workers.
  • For fully remote companies, you can distribute posters electronically by sharing a permanent link to the appropriate posters.
  • Some posters also need to be visible to job applicants, such as FMLA, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Employee Polygraph Protection posters, as per the guidance provided by the Department of Labor.

What Labor Law Posters Do I Need to Display?

You'll need both Federal and State labor law posters for each state where you have employees. The good news is that all the posters you need are provided for free by the federal government and state departments of labor. You've probably seen those convenient "all-in-one" laminated posters, but if you prefer, everything you need is also available as a free, printable document from the Massachusetts Department of Labor.

Federal Poster Requirements

Determining which federal posters you're required to display can be influenced by various factors, including your industry, the size of your company, benefits you provide and union affiliation.

The good news is that there's a handy tool to help you understand precisely which federal posters your company needs. You can use the Federal Poster Advisor tool  to determine your specific federal poster requirements.

Massachusetts Labor Law Poster Requirements

You can refer to the Massachusetts Department of Labor for free, printable posters.

Download Massachusetts labor law posters here
Let’s build this thing!

What’s included with the handbook builder

Creating a new handbook only takes a few minutes. And it’s easy. You can get started by answering a few interactive questions about your company. A few examples:

  • How many employees do you have?
  • Do you have employees in multiple states?
  • Do you have an introductory period for new employees?
  • Do you offer paid holidays?
  • What is your payroll schedule?

Company culture

Communicating your company culture

In all businesses, building a strong company culture can be essential to boosting morale and aligning employees. Arguably, it is even more key for small businesses. With a small team, the impact of a strong culture is made more apparent. Here are some important things to remember when building a strong company culture.

Evaluate Your Current Culture

Since company culture is primarily determined at the top, here are some key questions to ask your leadership team to evaluate where your culture currently stands:

  • Are we open about how things work at our company?
  • Do our employees know what is expected of them?
  • Do we value our employee’s feedback?
  • How do we demonstrate that our employees are valued? 
  • What are our company values?
  • Do we clearly express these values? 

Set Your Goals

From your answers to the previous questions, pinpoint what is lacking and make goals to improve on those areas. This could mean having clearer communication for employee expectations, defining company values, or creating monthly team-building activities to build morale. 

Respecting Employee’s Work-Life Balance

A large part of communicating that your company values its employees is demonstrating respect for their lives outside of work. A strong employee handbook can allow this to be done in a clear, effective way. Company leaders should detail expectations, but also be open about their own work-life balance to build transparency. Trust is key in a great company, and when leaders show genuine empathy for employee responsibilities at home, a foundation for transparency and cooperation is built. 

The Link Between Culture and Happiness

Many surveys and analyses of employee feedback indicate that the majority of employees care as much about the culture of the company they work for as their salary.  In small companies, culture is frequently undervalued. In order to reduce turnovers and increase recruitment, companies need to understand that there is a link between strong culture and the one important question employees think about regularly: “Am I happy working here?”.

Understanding and Communicating Your Company’s Culture

In order to effectively communicate your company’s culture, you need to understand it. By asking your team the right questions, setting goals, and valuing employees, you can be sure to be on the right track. 

Communicating this culture is an essential next step toward aligning with your employees. Not every culture is a good fit for every employee, and being honest upfront is important for making sure you are hiring employees best aligned not only with the skills a company requires, but the culture of the workplace. Research shows that when looking for a job, 77% of people polled would consider a company’s culture and work atmosphere before applying. By clearly communicating your company culture up front, you can ensure that more candidates who align with your team values will apply for a position.

Creating an editable handbook

How to create your new small business handbook

  • Get an up-to-date handbook
  • Edit online or download Word Doc
  • Includes essential policies
  • EEOC, harassment and discrimination policies
  • Customizable optional policies

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