Massachusetts Premium Weekend and Holiday Pay Ending Soon

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By David Beasley
The Center Square

With the end of the year nearing, so will premium pay for employees working Sundays and holidays in Massachusetts.

“grand bargain” piece of legislation signed in 2018 by Governor Charlie Baker will kick the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour in addition to providing a state-funded paid family and medical leave program. Pay goes up during holidays, per the recently enacted state law.

The state’s Blue Laws, which sets the hours of operation for certain businesses, require employers to pay a higher wage to those employees working on those days.

The raise in the minimum wage won’t affect many small businesses, Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square.

“Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have raised wages to try to get people back into the workplace,” he said.

But, it will increase the amount businesses pay inexperienced workers, Carlozzi said.

“That might be where it becomes an issue – when you are looking to hire a teen,” he said.

But in a tight labor market, such as the one the state is currently experiencing, even inexperienced teens are sometimes valuable for businesses, he added.

“You see businesses struggling over the course of the summer to find seasonal help, which is usually younger workers,” he said.

The $15-per-hour minimum wage is the last step in several increases adopted in 2018, Carlozzi said.

The automatic increases established in the 2018 bill were not always welcome, particularly during the early days of the pandemic when many businesses were struggling, he added.

“In 2018, you could not foresee what the economy was going to look like,” he said. “At times during the pandemic, the minimum wage was still set to go up, because of increases that were part of the ‘grand bargain’ legislation.”

Small business owners are, however, welcoming the end of the holiday premium pay requirement, said Carlozzi.

“It made Massachusetts an outlier,” he said. “It put Massachusetts at a competitive disadvantage with virtually every other state but one,” he said.

The holiday premium pay started off at 150 percent of minimum wage and was gradually reduced as the minimum wage increased, Carlozzi said.

“It was really [having] an effect on smaller businesses,” he said. “If you are a big chain, you have locations in other states, but if you are small mom and pop with one location and you had to pay that time-and-a-half on Sundays and major holidays, [that] was a major problem. It was really a disincentive to open.”


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