What is the difference between an Employment Agency, a Placement Agency, and a Staffing Agency?

An employment agency is any person who conducts in whole or in part a business which, for a fee, procures or attempts to procure permanent or temporary help or employment or engagements, or registers persons seeking such help, employment, or engagement, or gives information as to where and of whom such help, employment, or engagement may be procured, where a fee is exacted or attempted to be collected from a job applicant or worker, or if the agency places domestic employees.  A Domestic Employee is any worker who is paid directly by a household, family, or individual to perform work of a domestic nature, including, but not limited to, housekeeping, home management, nanny services, child monitoring, caretaking, laundering, cooking, home companion services, house sitting, and butler services for members of households or their guests in or about private homes. Domestic Employee does not include a person who performs services of a domestic nature as an employee of the business that places him, or a licensed medical professional, such as a medical doctor, registered or licensed practical nurse, or similarly trained and licensed individual who performs services relating to the delivery of specialized medical care. 

A placement agency is any person who conducts in whole or in part a business in which a fee is exacted or attempted to be collected for procuring or attempting to procure permanent or temporary help or employment or engagements; or registering individuals seeking such help, employment, or engagement; or giving information as to where and of whom such help, employment, or engagement may be procured, but who: (a) employs such individuals for the purpose of furnishing part time or temporary help; or (b) does not assess job placement fees to any job applicant or worker; or (c) conducts a business which consists solely of providing employers or prospective employers, by electronic means, biographical information, background and experience of applicants for temporary employment, help or engagement.

Agencies that procure or provide temporary or part time employment to any individual who then works under the supervision or direction of a work site employer are staffing agencies.   There is not a “staffing agency license” or “staffing agency registration;” staffing agencies must always be either licensed as employment agencies or registered as placement agencies with the Department of Labor Standards.  Staffing agencies are also subject to the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law (M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 159C).

What’s the difference between a license and a registration?

Agencies which meet the definition of “employment agency” under 454 CMR 24.02 and M.G.L. c. 140, §46A must be licensed.  Agencies which meet any exception to the term “employment agency” must be registered.  Both credentials are valid for one year.  Obtaining each credential requires completion of an application sent to the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) for processing.  Based upon your business model, DLS will advise you whether you are required by law to be licensed or registered.

I operate a home care agency—do I need an employment agency license or a placement agency registration?

The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards (DLS) issued a regulation at 454 CMR 24.00, published December 19, 2014, which no longer requires licensure or registration of agencies that directly employ workers to perform services of a domestic nature. Licensure is required of agencies that place or refer domestic employees.  The term “domestic employee” is defined as: “any worker who is paid directly by a household, family, or individual to perform work of a domestic nature, including, but not limited to, housekeeping, home management, nanny services, child monitoring, caretaking, laundering, cooking, home companion services, house sitting, and butler services for members of households or their guests in or about private homes. Domestic Employee does not include a person who performs services of a domestic nature as an employee of the business that places him, or a licensed medical professional, such as a medical doctor, registered or licensed practical nurse, or similarly trained and licensed individual who performs services relating to the delivery of specialized medical care.

Where can I apply for a home care license?

For information about operating a home care business in Massachusetts, including third party quality standards and accrediting programs, you may wish to contact one of the following industry organizations:

Home Care Aide Council
93 Concord Avenue, Suite 8
Belmont, MA 02478
PH: (617) 489-3550
FX: (781) 209-5977
www.hcacouncil.org
Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts
31 St. James Ave., Suite 780
Boston, MA 02116
PH: (617) 482-8830
FX: (617) 426-0509
info@thinkhomecare.org

 I operate a home care agency and I have a license / a registration.  How can I renew my license / registration with DLS?

DLS recognizes that for many years, it had issued employment agency licenses and placement agency registrations to many home care agencies which directly employed their workers.  Please note that at no time was DLS ever issuing a “home care license” to any business.  The license which many home care agencies received from DLS was an employment agency license or placement agency registration in accordance with M.G.L. c. 140, §§46A-46R.   As a consequence of the new regulation, home care agencies which employ their workers are no longer considered to be employment or placement agencies under M.G.L. c. 140, §46A or 454 CMR 24.02.

Does the Department of Labor Standards inspect employment, placement, and staffing agencies?

Yes. M.G.L. c. 140, § 46A and 46Q, M.G.L. c. 149, § 159C(f), and 454 CMR 24.00 give DLS broad inspection authority over both licensed and registered agencies as well as staffing agencies.

I understand that DLS looks very closely at applicant fees. What is considered to be an applicant fee?

An applicant fee is any money or other valuable consideration paid or promised to be paid by an applicant or worker to an agency for employment procurement services rendered by the agency. Examples of fees may include, but are not limited to: a modeling agency commission; a “headhunting” fee charged by an employment agency to a job applicant for securing a permanent employment with a company.

May I charge a fee to an individual to fill out an application to be listed with my agency?

No; this is considered to be a registration fee which is prohibited by law.

How do I become a licensed employment agency?

In order to obtain a license you must complete an application.  Initial license/registration applications are available on this webpage.  Licenses and registrations are valid for one year. 

My business uses more than one name. Must I fill out an application for each name?

Yes. Each name that your business uses must be licensed separately.

My business has more than one location. Must I fill out an application for each location?

Yes.  Each location that your business uses must be licensed separately.

How do I know when my license is about to expire?

While DLS at this time does send a courtesy reminder one month prior to one's expiration date, it is the responsibility of each business to track its own expiration date. The expiration date of each license and registration issued is printed on the license certificate. Renewal applications should be sent 30 days prior to the expiration of your license in order to ensure that your business maintains licensure as required by the Employment Agency Law.

What happens if I do not renew my license on time?

Failure to possess and maintain a valid license is a violation of state law and continued operation may result in civil fines and criminal penalties.

Can I apply for licensure electronically?

Unfortunately, at this time, DLS does not have this capability. Applications can be downloaded from www.mass.gov/dols/esap . You may contact DLS at 617-626-6970, if you need a copy of an application to be mailed to you. Applications are to be completed and mailed to DLS with all supporting documents.

What must I do to notify DLS if I move my business?

Mail the following items in a packet to DLS: (1) a letter on letterhead listing the former and new address and the effective date of the new address, (2) your original license certificate, (3) proof of your having filed amended corporate papers with the Secretary of the Commonwealth or an amended Business Certificate with the city or town, (4) an amended bond certificate with the new address (if applicable) and (5) a copy of your workers' compensation policy declaration page reflecting the new address. DLS will issue your business a replacement certificate reflecting the new address.

I lost my license certificate. What should I do?

Mail to DLS a letter on letterhead explaining that you lost the certificate and request the issuance of a duplicate certificate, along with a check for $50 payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

May I operate an employment agency from a home office?

Yes.  However, 454 CMR 24.05(2)(a) and (b) does not allow employment agencies to host job applicant interviews or store agency records in a room used for living purposes, a room where boarders or lodgers are kept, a room where meals are served, a room where persons sleep or a room where intoxicating liquors are sold.  Employment agency records shall be kept in an area of sufficient space to contain them, according to a filing system that permits expeditious retrieval, but limits to the extent possible, unauthorized access.