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Guide Absence and Leave Policies

Employees may qualify to use paid or unpaid leave time when they are absent from work on a short-term or long-term basis for a number of specific reasons.
State employees are eligible for a variety of paid and unpaid time from work. Waiting periods may apply. Benefits may vary depending on whether you are a bargaining unit employee or a manager.

Table of Contents

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Public Health Emergency Leave - Effective April 1 - December 31, 2020

  • Allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the FMLA
    • when the employee is unable to work or telework
    • due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to the current public health emergency.
  • PHEL is part of an employee’s annual FMLA entitlement – not in addition.
  • Employees are eligible for PHEL after 30 days of employment.
  • Employees designated as health care providers or emergency responders who are necessary to the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 are exempted from the PHEL provisions of the FFCRA.

Limited wage replacement:

  • The first 10 days of leave under the PHEL may be unpaid, but employees may elect, to use accrued vacation, personal, or sick leave or paid Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
  • Following the first 10 days, eligible employees must be paid a benefit in the amount of not less than 2/3 of an employee’s regular rate of pay, multiplied by the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, capped at $200 per day per employee, and $10,000 in the aggregate.

Public Health Emergency Leave FAQ


Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSL) - Effective April 1 - December 31, 2020

Qualifying employees may be eligible for up to ten days of paid sick leave under the following circumstances:

Quarantine, Isolation or Seeking Medical Diagnosis for Employee's Personal Illness

  • For employees unable to work for reasons related to 1-3, the payment for leave must be the greater of the employee’s regular rate of pay or the highest applicable minimum wage (local, state or federal). For these purposes, paid sick time is capped at $511 per day per employee and $5,110 in the aggregate per employee.
    • 1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
    • 2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
    • 3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.

Taking care of others or experiencing other conditions

  • For employees unable to work for reasons 4-6, the leave must be the greater of 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, or 2/3 of the highest applicable minimum wage (local, state or federal). For these purposes, paid sick time is capped at $200 per day per employee and $2,000 in the aggregate per employee.
    • 4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or health care provider advisory, as described above.
    • 5. The employee who is unable to work or telework is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions;
    • 6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor;

For full-time employees, employers must provide ten days of paid sick time.  For part-time employees, employers must provide the average number of hours the employee typically works over a two-week period. 

Employees are required to follow reasonable notice procedures in order to continue receiving paid sick time.

EPSL cannot be carried over from one year to the next and is not available for cash out.

Employees designated as health care providers or emergency responders who are necessary to the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 will be exempted from the EPSL provisions of the FFCRA.

Up to ten free additional sick days will be available for any employee who is exempt from the EPSL provisions of the FFCRA and who needs to use sick time due to COVID-19 for themselves or to care for a quarantined family member and will be paid at their full salary rate.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave FAQ

Sick Leave, Extended Illness Leave Bank (EILB), and Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

Sick Leave

Sick Leave Accruals

  • Employees on a biweekly basis (totaling 15 days/year) will continue to accrue sick leave each year until the state service ends. 
  • You can use sick hours for your own illness or for the illness of certain family members. See the maximum amount of hours allowed (usually 30 per calendar year) in the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and Red Book. 
  • Contract employees and intermittent employees who are not covered by the CBAs or Red Book will receive some limited leave time for every 30 minutes they work per the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law. 
  • Your agency may request medical documentation when they suspect sick leave abuse, a pattern of absences, or absences that indicate you have protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • When you leave state service, you cannot cash out any sick leave. Your sick leave days/hours will remain on your employee account as long as you return to state service within 3 years.
  • Executive Department employees who retire can cash out 20% of their accrued sick leave.


External Resources

Extended Illness Leave Bank (EILB)

The EILB is a statewide bank created by the Human Resources Division that helps Executive Branch employees who suffered an extended injury or illness to recover a portion of their salary that they may have lost due to extended unpaid leaves of absence. It was created in 1995 Chapter 7, Section 4P, MGL and is also covered by EILB regulations.

An Executive Branch employee who has worked for at least 12 months and has had acceptable attendance may donate a day of leave (sick, vacation, or personal) to a statewide "bank" every calendar year. Members may apply to "withdraw" time from the bank if they meet the requirements of the EILB regulations. Members may not withdraw more than 120 work days in any two-year period.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)


See separate FMLA Guide page


Holiday, Personal, and Vacation Leave

Holiday Leave

HRD (Human Resources Division) publishes a schedule memo for Executive Department employees. There are special instructions in the memo which says what happens when a holiday falls on a weekend. 

State Holidays

New Year's Day
Martin Luther King Day
President's Day
Patriots' Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans' Day
Thanksgiving Day
Christmas Day

Personal Leave

Three Personal Days** are granted each calendar year

  • Personal Days do not carry over from year to year. 
  • Each year in September, employees are notified of how many personal days they need to use by the last pay period. 
  • Employments who leave the agency are not compensated for unused personal days.

** Some longer-term bargaining unit employees receive 5 personal days per calendar year per the union contract

Personal Days per Year

Start Date

Number of Days

January to March

3 days

April to June

2 days

July to September

1 day

October to December

0 days


Vacation Leave

  • Employees start earning vacation time after two weeks of employment.
  • Time off the payroll will result in reduced vacation accruals.
  • Employees can carry over one year's worth of unused vacation time to the next year.  Vacation time not used in that 2nd year is forfeited.
  • Each September employees are notified if they have any "use or lose" vacation time
  • Employees who leave employment are paid for  unused accrued vacation hours per state law.

Vacation Accrual  (Annual)

Years of Service

Managers and


Bargaining Unit


0 to 4.5 years

12 days

10 days

4.5 years to 9.5 years

15 days

15 days

9.5 years to 19.5 years

20 days

20 days

19.5 years +

25 days

25 days


Military Leave

Employees should provide their agency with a copy of their military orders as soon as they receive them.
50+ State employees are deployed FT in the military at any time

Executive Department employees in the military may qualify for paid or unpaid Military leave. 

The Commonwealth is proud to hire staff that may be called to full-time military duty as well as reservists in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or Marine Corps.

Both state and federal law offer protection to employees who are unable to work due to military service. Employees may qualify for paid leave and job protection. Leave may be full paid leave, unpaid leave, or partial pay to ensure their income reflects the amount of time they missed. 


External Resources

Additional Resources for Military Leave

Pregnant Workers Fairness Policy

Agencies of the Commonwealth provide accommodations to allow pregnant/prospective employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Agencies will not discriminate against employees/prospective employees who are pregnant or have a condition related to pregnancy including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child  

Leave to Donate Blood, Bone Marrow, or an Organ

Blood Donation Leave

With prior supervised approval, state employees may donate blood up to 5 times a year during their work shift between October 1 and September 30. We cover travel to and from the blood collections site and the time spent donating and recovering under medical supervision. The maximum number of paid hours per donation is four hours, although it usually takes much less than that to donate. 

Did you know a single blood donation can save up to three lives? Give the gift of life by reading eligibility requirements on the Red Cross links below and donate at the blood collection site of your choice. 

External Resources

Bone Marrow Donation Leave

Executive Department employees may take up to 5 paid days (not charged to personal, vacation, or sick time) to donate bone marrow and recover from the donation. See the link below for the detailed policy. 

Organ Donation Leave

Executive Department employees may take up to 30 paid work days per calendar year (not charged to  personal, vacation, or sick time) to donate an organ including preparation and recovery time. 

External Resources


Leave for Jury Duty, Voting, and Court Appearances

Jury (Civic) Duty Leave

External Resources

Voting Leave

If an Executive Department employee cannot vote in a town, city, state, or national election due to a work schedule, they may ask their agency for advance written approval to use up to two paid hours (not including personal, vacation, or sick time) to vote. 

Leave for Court Testimony

Managers and Confidential Employees who appear as a witness for a government agency in a court case will receive their regular pay. If they receive any witness fees, they must return the fees to their agency. 

Leave for Volunteering for SERV, Red Cross Disaster Relief or National Medical Service

Red Cross Disaster Volunteer Leave

Executive Department employees may receive up to 15 paid days per calendar year if called by the American Red Cross to serve as a certified disaster volunteer to respond to any emergency in the world.

External Resources

SERV - Community Service, Mentoring and School Volunteer Leave

See separate SERV Program

Volunteering with a Disaster Medical Team

National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) 

State employees may qualify for unpaid leave time to volunteer on a national Disaster Medical Assistance (DMAT) as trained medical and paramedic professionals. To qualify as a member of DMAT, you must be trained and ready to deploy within 24 hours of notification service is needed for an emergency. 

There is no paid leave time to be a volunteer as these volunteers receive compensation from the federal government as a special employee. However, state employees may use vacation or personal time to volunteer. 

Although this volunteering is NOT considered military service and thus does not qualify for military pay, employees who do this volunteer work have some protection for their job and health. Employees who are volunteering in this role are covered by USERRA (which requires job reinstatement upon returning from leave). See  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services federal government site for more information.

Other Leave: Bereavement, Inclement Weather, and Small Necessities

Bereavement/Funeral Leave

Executive Department employees may qualify for paid leave time to attend a funeral of certain family members.

  • Upon the passing of an eligible family member, Executive department employees may qualify for 1 to 7 paid work days for mourning and attending services. These days are separate from vacation, personal, and sick days.
  • Employees should refer to their collective bargaining agreement (union contract) or Red Book for details on eligible family members, associated length of leave, and documentation requirements (if any)
  • Managers and Confidential Employees who are Veterans may receive paid leave to participate in funerals for other veterans when serving as a member of a firing squad, color detail, pallbearer, bugler or escort.


Inclement Weather Leave

State agencies designate each employee as either "Emergency Personnel" or "Non-Emergency Personnel." 

In case of inclement weather or another emergency,  Emergency Personnel will be required to report to their assigned work site as scheduled,due to the critical nature of their job functions. Emergency Personnel are generally charged with the care and custody of patients and/or prisoners or are responsible for the delivery of other critically important public services. Titles include State Trooper, Mental Health Worker, Developmental Disabilities Worker, and Correction Officer, among others.

Non-Emergency Personnel scheduled to work the day of an emergency but directed to not report to work or those impacted by a late start of early departure, will receive regular pay (i.e. weather leave  or "WEA" on timesheet) for their lost work hours.  This time will not be charged to personal, vacation, or sick time.

Small Necessities Leave

Executive Department employees are entitled to take unpaid time to attend meetings related to their child's education, routine and medical appointments for their child or elderly relative, or for meetings about elder care.

  • Employees may have the right to take up to 24 unpaid hours every 12 months for these purposes.
  • Employees may choose to use available leave time such as personal, vacation, or sick time, if the reasons for the Small Necessities Leave falls under one of these categories.
  • Employees should notify their state agency 7 calendar days in advance of the requested leave time. If it isn't feasible for employees to provide this amount of notice, they should notify their agency soon as possible.



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

Paid and Unpaid Leave Benefits

Executive Department employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, may qualify for paid or unpaid leave including the following benefits. 

  • 15 paid days per calendar year (not charged to sick, vacation, or personal leave) to seek counseling, get medical treatment, attend legal proceedings, etc. from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • 6 months of unpaid leave with the right to return to work with the same position, benefit, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. 

Safeguarding Your Privacy

Protecting your Personal Information from being released

Employees who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or adjudicated crimes (crimes that have been resolved through the courts system after an arrest has been made) may apply to have their personal information excluded from public records for their safety and protection.

Employees apply for coverage through a Payroll Exemption Policy Form and depending on the circumstances, may need to provide documentation to their agency which will be protected.