Maryland Healthy Working Families Act Went into Effect February 11, 2018
Lisa Shuster, FCSHRM Legislative Director
On January 12th, the Maryland General Assembly overrode Governor Hogan’s veto to pass the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. In doing so, Maryland became the ninth state in the nation to require that employers offer paid sick and safe leave to their employees. As an employer, here’s what you need to know:
Who Qualifies and When is it Effective?
As of February 11, 2018, Maryland employers with 15 more employees must offer paid sick and safe leave. Employers with fewer than 15 employees are required to provide employees with unpaid sick and safe leave.
The law does not apply to:
For What Reasons May Employees Use Leave?
Employee may use their leave for the following reasons:
A broad definition of “family” has been adopted and included the following family members:
Accrual and Carryover
Employees must accrue leave at the minimum rate of 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid leave each year. Alternatively, employers may choose to grant the entire allotment of leave (40 hours) at the beginning of each year (employers may define the 12-month period that constitutes a year).
Employers using the accrual method are required to allow employees to “carryover” up to 40 hours to the next year, but may limit an employee to using a maximum of 64 hours of leave each year. If the employer grants the 40 hours at the beginning of the year, no carryover is required.
For new employees, while the leave must begin accruing immediately, employers may require a waiting period of 106 calendar days before the employee may use their leave.
Leave must be paid at the employees’ normal wage rate, and leave for tipped employees must be paid at Maryland’s minimum wage of $9.25.
Leave accrual is not required during:
Employer Notice and Verification
In cases where the need to use leave is foreseeable, employers may require employees to provide up to 7 days’ notice. When the need for leave is not foreseeable, employees must provide notice “as soon as practicable.” Employers may deny the use of leave if the employee fails to provide the required notice and the absence will cause disruption.
Employers may permit employees may use leave in the smallest increments used by the employer’s timekeeping system, or they may require that leave be taken in increments of up to 4 hours.
An employer may request verification that the use of leave was appropriate in the following circumstances:
If the employee does not provide verification, the employer may deny subsequent leave requests for the same reason as the earlier, unverified request.
Borrowing Leave, Termination, and Rehire
Employers are permitted to advance or let an employee “borrow” leave that has not yet been accrued or granted. If the employee is terminated prior to leave being “paid back,” the employer may deduct the advanced amount from the employee’s final paycheck if there is written authorization allowing employer to do so.
Employers are not required to payout accrued, but unused, or granted leave unless they choose. If the employer rehires the employee within 37 weeks following employee’s termination, the employer must reinstate unused leave, unless it was voluntarily paid out to the employee at termination.
Employee Notice and Record-Keeping
Employers must provide employees notice that they are entitled to the leave, how the leave is accrued, permitted uses, that adverse action for use of leave is prohibited, and how to report a violation. The Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation has published a sample Employee Notice to help employers comply with the poster requirement of the new law.
In addition, employers must provide employees with a written statement each pay period that provides the amount of leave available to them. This can includes use of HR portals or electronic systems where employees can access their leave balance online.
Employers are also required to maintain for at least 3 years records of leave accrued and used by each employee.
Existing Policies and County Laws
Employers are not required to modify their existing paid leave policies if 1) their practices are at least equivalent to the provisions of the new law’s minimum requirements; and 2) their paid leave policy does not reduce compensation as a result of absence due to use of sick or safe leave.
Montgomery and Price George’s Counties have passed their own versions of paid sick and safe leave laws. Montgomery County is required to comply with both sets of laws, while Prince George’s County’s law is pre-empted by the new state law, meaning they must comply only with the new state law.
What Should You Do?
Employers should carefully review their existing leave policies and make adjustments to ensure they comply with the many technical requirements of this new law. If you don’t already provide leave, you should develop appropriate policies and procedures as soon as possible.