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Effective February 11, 2018, employers in Maryland with 15 or more employees are required to provide paid job-protected sick and safe leave to eligible employees, and employers with 14 or fewer employees must provide unpaid job-protected sick and safe leave to eligible employees. Under the new law, employees can accrue leave beginning January 1, 2018.

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act¹ (HWFA) requires covered employers with 15 or more employees to allow employees to accrue at least one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers also have the option to provide employees with 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave at the beginning of each year and forego the accrual method. Employers are not required to modify an existing paid leave policy if the policy permits an employee to accrue paid leave at the same rate required by the HWFA and use it for the same purposes outlined in the law.

Under the law, employees are permitted to carryover the balance of accrued unused sick and safe leave to the following year. However, employers can place accrual and use limits on paid sick and safe leave including delaying usage until 106 calendar days after hire, capping earned sick leave per year at 40 hours, capping carryover of paid sick leave at 40 hours, capping used sick leave hours at 64 per year, and capping total accrual at any point in time to 64 hours. Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued unused sick and safe leave upon termination of employment.

The HWFA permits employees to use paid sick and safe leave for a broad list of reasons, including the employee’s own illness (including mental illnesses); to obtain preventative care for an employee or family member; to care for an ill family member; for parental leave; or absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or family member.

Employers with employees in Maryland should evaluate their leave policies and consider whether modifications are necessary. The penalties for noncompliance can be significant, including three times the value of the employee’s unpaid earned sick and safe leave. Additionally, employers should be aware the new law imposes notice and recordkeeping requirements.

The Maryland Legislature is currently considering a bill that would delay enforcement of the law for 60 days so that employers have more time to comply and to allow the Commissioner to issue guidance and model notices.

¹2017 Bill Text MD H.B. 1

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