As one of a handful of states with a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, families that hire a nanny, housekeeper, senior caregiver or other household employees can easily get tripped up by the rules and regulations around Massachusetts domestic employment.
To avoid fines and penalties – for even unintentional violations – here’s what a household employer needs to know about hiring and employing someone to work in their home.
The state’s current minimum wage is $11/hour. This rate will gradually increase to $15/hour by January 2023. Household employees are required to be paid at least the highest of the federal or state minimum wage rates. Since the federal rate is still $7.25/hour, the Massachusetts state minimum wage applies.
An overtime rate of time-and-a-half applies for hours worked over 40 in a work week. Federal law exempts live-in employees from overtime requirements.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Domestic employers in Massachusetts are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if their employee works 16 or more hours in a week. Employers could pay up to $1,500 for not carrying a policy and can be fined $100 day once they are told to obtain coverage until the policy is in effect.
Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights
Massachusetts was one of the first states to pass a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. It took effect in April 2015 and provides clear guidelines for household employers and their employees. Among the stipulations of the law:
Employees have the right to be paid for all working time when required to be on the premises or on duty. They should also be paid for meal, rest, and sleeping times (with some exceptions). Employees who work 40 or more hours in a week must be provided at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week and a 48-hour rest period monthly. If your employee agrees to work on their day of rest, they must be paid time and a half.
Household workers can take up to eight weeks of maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Household employers must provide a written employment agreement, which should include:
- Rate of pay (including overtime)
- Working hours (including meal breaks and other time off)
- Any provided benefits such as days of rest, sick days, vacation days, holidays, health insurance, severance, etc.
- Responsibilities of job
- Process for addressing grievances
- Right to collect workers compensation
- Required notice for termination by the employer
Employers must all keep all notices and agreements for at least two years.
Employees may request a written evaluation after three months of work and then annually thereafter. They can dispute the evaluation under the personnel records law.
Employees are also protected against retaliation. They may not be fired or discriminated against when seeking to assert their rights to fair wages and overtime.
Live-in workers who are terminated without cause must be given written notice and 30 days of lodging either on site or in a comparable off-site location, or severance pay representing their two-week average earnings. If just cause is given for termination, no housing or severance obligations are required.
Household employers must provide 40 hours of sick leave to their employees each year. However, you may provide it on an unpaid basis. Only employers with 11 or more employees are required to provide paid sick leave.
New Employer SUI Rate
Massachusetts domestic employers are required to carry unemployment insurance. The new employer state unemployment insurance (SUI) tax rate that all employers pay when they first become employers is 1.87 percent of wages. Families that had employees previously may be subject to a different rate.
Taxable Wage Base
In Massachusetts, the taxable wage base is $15,000. This is the maximum income amount for which employees must pay Social Security taxes.
GTM Can Help with Massachusetts Domestic Employment
Hiring a household employee in Massachusetts or have questions about complying with the state’s tax, wage, and labor laws? Get a free, no-obligation consultation with a household employment expert at (800) 929-9213. It’s important to get nanny taxes and payroll done right to avoid fines and penalties for violating the law.