On January 12, 2018, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to pass the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”), and in so doing, Maryland became the ninth state in the country to require paid sick and safe leave for qualifying employees.
Pursuant to the Act, any business in Maryland with 15 or more employees during the preceding year, including part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal workers, must provide their workforce with paid sick leave. Maryland employers with 14 or fewer employees are also required, at a minimum, to provide employees with unpaid sick and safe leave.
The Act currently is scheduled to take effect as of February 12, 2018. However, on January 23, 2018, as a result of concerns expressed by various lawmakers that employers would not have a sufficient amount of time to come into compliance with various provisions of the Act, Senator Thomas Middleton, the chief sponsor of the law, introduced a bill that would delay enforcing requirements of the law until mid-April. Senator Middleton stated that the delay in enforcement would give labor officials the requisite time to draw up necessary regulations and to spread the word to companies that are affected. He also emphasized that he wanted to “hold harmless” companies that are figuring out the details of how to set up their sick leave programs, and that “ninety days should give the administration enough time to get a guide together.”
Since this is an emergency bill, it would require a three-fifths majority in both the state Senate and House of Delegates to pass. Also, given the delay in implementation, it is possible that Republicans may try to make changes to this bill when it reaches the full Senate. As of now, however, it appears that the Act will become law.
When the act becomes law, qualifying employees will be permitted to request earned sick and save leave in the following circumstances:
- To care for their own mental or physical illness, injury, or condition, or that of a family member;
- To obtain preventative medical care for themselves or a family member;
- For maternity or paternity leave; or
- Where a work absence is necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against the employee or their family member.
That Act will not apply to employees who:
- Are under the age of 18;
- Regularly work less than 12 hours a week for an employer;
- Are employed by a temp services agency to provide staffing services;
- Are employed by an employment agency to provide part-time or temp services to another individual;
- Are employed in the agricultural sector on an agricultural operation;
- Perform work on an as-needed basis in a health or human services industry; or
- Certain employees who are parties to collective bargaining agreements in the construction industry.
Employees will accrue leave at the minimum rate of 1 hour of paid sick and save leave, for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid leave a year. Employers may also front-load the requirement, and award employees the entire 40 hours at the beginning of the year. And, while employees may carry over up to 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave, employers may cap leave usage at 64 hours per year.
What Employers Should Be Doing Now
Immediately when the Act becomes effective, employers will be required to provide notice to each employee of their entitlement to paid sick leave and the rate of accrual. The Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry will make sample notices available on its website. Thus, employers should monitor the website for the sample notice and be prepared to provide it when the law becomes effective.
Employers must also provide each employee with a written statement that documents the amount of earned sick and safe leave available to them, per pay period. Employers should work with their human resources management software and services to ensure that this information will be accurately captured and communicated to their employees.
Finally, employers will be required to retain records of all earned sick and safe leave accrued and used by each employee for at least 3 years, so it would be prudent to begin preparing for these additional record retention requirements.