The Healthy Working Families Act is now the law in Maryland.
Maryland businesses with 15 or more employees are required to provide paid “sick and safe” leave at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a minimum of at least 40 hours of paid leave per year. Businesses with less than 15 employees are required to provide unpaid sick and safe leave that accrues at the same rate.
Employees eligible to receive sick and safe leave benefits are those 18 years and older who work at least 12 hours per week.
Sick and safe leave may be used for the following purposes:
- To care for a mental or physical illness or injury of the employee or a family member
- Preventative medical care for the employee or a family member
- Maternity or paternity leave of the employee or a family member
- Absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking of the employee or a family member
For purposes of the 15 employee threshold, the number of people employed by a business is determined based on the average number of employees per month for the prior year. Employees include those working full-time, part-time (even those who work less than 12 hours per week) and those working on a temporary or seasonal basis.
Among the restrictions employers may impose on sick and safe leave are the following:
- Limit the amount of unused leave that may be carried over from the prior year to 40 hours
- Limit the amount of leave that may be used in a year to 64 hours
- Limit the amount of leave an employee can accrue at any time to no more than 64 hours
- Prohibit use of leave during the first 106 days of employment
Employers may choose to award the full amount of sick and safe leave at the start of the year. If this is done, the Act allows the employer to prohibit the carryover of any unused leave from year to year.
Employers are not required to pay for accrued, but unused, leave when the employee terminates employment.
Employers are required to post a notice of the employees’ rights under the act (the form of notice is still pending). Furthermore, employers are required to keep employees informed of the status if their accrued leave balances, including updates with each paycheck. This obligation can be satisfied if the employer maintains an electronic database accessible by the employees
The Act is effective February 11, 2018, though the legislature is considering delaying the effective date to allow for the implementation of formal regulations and to give employers an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the new law.
The information provided above is not intended to be a comprehensive report of the new law, but rather a summary of some of its more significant elements. Employers should immediately take the time to familiarize themselves with the new law with an eye toward determining whether any changes are necessary to existing employment policies/manuals in order to bring them in line with the new law.