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Baker-Polito Administration Files Legislation to Cap Sick-time Accrual

BOSTON — This week, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito introduced “An Act to Reform Sick Time,” aimed at limiting sick-time accruals that have led to exorbitant payouts upon retirement from state government.

The legislation would cap accrual of sick time for state employees in the Executive Department at no more than 1,000 hours, equivalent to six months of work. The bill grandfathers in approximately 5,800 current state employees who already have more than 1,000 hours accrued. Those employees would be capped at their current earned amount as of the date of enactment. Once the legislation is passed, the policy will take effect immediately.

“Sick leave is a benefit designed to offer employees a way to deal with health and family issues, not a retirement bonus,” Baker said. “Bringing the Commonwealth’s sick-leave-accrual policy in line with other private- and public-sector employers just makes sense and is the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

Added Polito, “this legislation ensures the use of sick time remains consistent with its intended purpose. Benefits for Executive Department employees will remain competitive while we implement an accrual policy that is fair to Massachusetts taxpayers.”

Under current law, employees can accrue a maximum of 15 sick days per year, and those employees who retire are permitted to cash out 20% of unused sick time. In FY 2015, 378 employees had an accrual of more than 1,000 hours upon retirement. While this represents only about one-third the number of retiring employees, the cashouts for these employees accounted for nearly 80% of the total cashout cost. Based on the last three fiscal years, if fully implemented, a 1,000-hour cap on accruals would have saved an average of $3.5 million in cashouts per year.

“Sick days serve an important purpose, but they must be used in an appropriate and accountable way for our compensation system to have the integrity and transparency taxpayers deserve,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr.

Added House Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr., “recent media reports highlighting excessive sick-leave payouts in the public higher-education system clearly demonstrate the need to crack down on these types of abuses. The reforms proposed by the Baker-Polito administration will help to provide greater transparency and accountability to the state’s taxpayers.”

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