Earned Sick Time

A. Introduction

Harvard’s earned sick time policy has been designed to provide protection against loss of pay due to absences from work necessitated by illness or injury. This policy is based upon the premise that the University and employees share a common concern for both the work that needs to be done and the wellbeing of those who perform the work. Accordingly, employees are expected to come to work when they are well and to remain at home when they are ill or, where eligible under this policy, to care for family members.

B. Earned Sick Time Accrual and Use

1) Accrual for Regular Employees

Each employee who is regularly scheduled to work 17.5 hours or more per week accrues earned sick time at the rate of one day per month of completed service, except any period during which an employee is receiving Short Term Disability pay or Worker’s Compensation. Part-time employees accrue earned sick time on a prorated basis as described in the “Accrual Rates” policy under the Time Away From Work section. Accrued days that are not used are “banked” for future use, and are not to exceed a total of 130 days.

2) Accrual for Less Than Half Time and Temporary Employees, Including Co-op Student Employees and Paid Interns

Effective July 1, 2015, Less Than Half Time (LHT) and Temporary Employees, including Co-op Studenti Employees and Paid Interns, accrue one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum accrual of 40 hours of earned sick time each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). Earned sick time shall be based only on actual hours worked. Accrued earned sick time that is not used is “banked” for use in the next fiscal year, and is not to exceed a total of 40 hours.

3) Using Earned Sick Time

Employees can use earned sick time to care for their own physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition, or for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; to attend routine medical appointments (including travel time) for the employee or these individuals; or to address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s family member, as defined in Harvard’s Domestic Violence Leave policy. More information may be found in the “Domestic Violence Leave” policy under the Time Away From Work section.

Earned sick time may run concurrently with time off provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, the Massachusetts Domestic Violence Leave Act, and any other leave laws that allow employees to use leave for these same purposes.

Employees must provide advance notice to their supervisor of the need for use of earned sick time, except in emergencies. In the case of a pre-scheduled or foreseeable absence, the employee ordinarily should provide seven days’ advance notice. If the employee’s need for sick time is unforeseeable, the employee should provide as much notice as is reasonable under the circumstances.

a) Use by Less Than Half Time and Temporary Employees, Including Co-op Student Employees and Paid Interns

LHT and Temporary Employees may begin to use earned sick time when they have been employed for 90 days. Those who have been employed for at least 90 days as of July 1, 2015, may use earned sick time as it accrues. LHT and Temporary Employees may use up to 40 hours of earned sick time per fiscal year. The smallest amount of earned sick time that may be used is one hour. For uses beyond one hour, employees may use earned sick time in hourly increments or in the smallest increment used to account for absences or use of other time. ii

b) Use for Family Care

When the illness of someone in the employee’s immediate family or household requires the employee’s absence from work, the employee may charge up to 12 days or up to 40 hours, whichever is more, of such absence in any fiscal year (July 1 - June 30) to accrued earned sick time. For purposes of this policy, “immediate family” includes children, step-children, spouses, parents, step-parents, parents-in-law, qualified domestic partners and court appointed wards; and household includes individuals currently living at the employee’s residence.

c) Extended Personal Illness

A regular employee who is unable to work due to illness or injury for longer than two consecutive calendar weeks may be eligible for benefits under the Short Term Disability Program for up to 26 weeks (including the two week waiting period). After six months of absence due to illness or injury, a regular employee may be eligible for benefits under the Long Term Disability Plan, provided the employee has elected to participate in this plan.

d) Work-Related Injury/Illness

Earned sick time may not be used for absences due to a work-related injury or illness or for an absence related to any injury or illness attributable to employment elsewhere for which compensation may be payable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

C. Documenting Earned Sick Time Use and Abuse

Normal use of earned sick time will not interfere with the overall productivity of the department and will not be used as a negative factor in any employment action. However, it is appropriate to take corrective steps if an employee abuses earned sick time (e.g., calls in sick when in fact the employee is absent for a reason that is not consistent with allowable purposes for use of sick time) or if an employee has a pattern of misuse (e.g., absences just before or after a weekend, vacation, or holiday). These corrective steps may include informal or formal disciplinary warnings. In some cases, the eventual action may be termination.

Documentation may be required when an employee’s use of earned sick time results in an absence of more than three consecutive scheduled work days or more than 24 consecutive scheduled work hours, or occurs after four unforeseeable and undocumented absences within a three-month period. Documentation may include a signed statement by a health care provider indicating the need for the earned sick time taken. Ordinarily employees must submit such documentation within seven days after taking earned sick time. If an employee fails to comply with documentation requirements, the amount paid for earned sick time may be deducted from future pay as an overpayment.

D. Other Earned Sick Time Practices

1) Accruals During a Leave of Absence

Earned sick time does not accrue while an employee is on a leave of absence without pay or during any period in which an employee is receiving Short Term Disability pay or Worker’s Compensation.

2) Using Earned Sick Time During a Vacation

If a serious illness or injury, such as one requiring hospitalization, effectively prevents the use of part or all of a vacation period as such, employees may have the period of time during which they are seriously ill charged to any accrued earned sick time rather than to vacation pay. It is the employee’s responsibility to notify their supervisor when this occurs. Documentation may be required.

3) Earned Sick Time Use During a Holiday or Winter Recess

A regular employee who is sick on a holiday or during Winter Recess receives regular holiday pay or Winter Recess pay for that day and the day is not subtracted from the employee’s accrued earned sick time balance.

4) Unused Accrued Earned Sick Time

An employee will not be paid for any unused accrued earned sick time upon termination of employment, but may be credited with previously accrued sick time upon reemployment, as follows:

a) Regular Employees

When a regular employee terminates Harvard employment, the total number of accrued sick days should be noted on the form to process the termination. A former employee who returns to regular Harvard employment will be credited with previously accrued sick time. If the break in service is longer than twelve months, the employee will be credited with previously accrued sick time after completing the orientation and review period. No more than 24 accrued sick days can be carried over from prior service.

b) Less Than Half Time and Temporary Employees, Including Co-op Student Employees and Paid Interns

Following a break in service of up to twelve months, LHT and Temporary Employees may use any unused earned sick time accrued before the break, and do not need to restart the 90-day vesting period in section B(3)(a) of this policy. LHT and Temporary employees do not retain unused accrued earned sick time following a break in service of more than twelve months.

5) Questions Concerning Interpretation of Earned Sick Time Policy

Questions concerning the earned sick time policy should be directed to the local human resource office or the Office of Labor and Employee Relations.

Last updated: 06/24/2015

i  Student employees are generally not covered by the earned sick time law. See 940 CMR 33.02 (Definitions - Employee). Specifically, the regulations provide that students attending a Massachusetts institution of higher education are not eligible for earned sick time if they are:

(a) participating in a federal work-study program or a substantially similar financial aid or scholarship program;
(b) providing support services to residents of a residence hall, dormitory, apartment building, or other similar residence operated by the institution at which they are matriculated in exchange for a waiver or reduction of room, board, tuition or other education related expenses; or
(c) exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax pursuant to 26 U.S.C. §3121(b)(10).

Id.  Notwithstanding the above exceptions to the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time law, see M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148C, students from other institutions who receive compensation for employment at Harvard as co-op student employees or paid interns are eligible for earned sick time under the Law and pursuant to this Policy.

ii  Please note that in operations where an employee’s use of earned sick time requires the department to hire a replacement or call in another employee to perform the absent employee’s work, Harvard may require the absent employee to utilize an equal number of hours of earned sick time as those worked by the replacement or call-in employee. See 940 CMR 33.03(18). Please contact your Office of Labor & Employee Relations liaison for further guidance on this provision.