We have developed some Frequently Asked Questions to help you to understand the new Maryland Healthy Families Act (aka Maryland Sick and Safe Leave), and to assist with policy development, implementation strategies, and assistance with employee communications.
What does the new law mean?
Under the new law, Maryland employers will be required to provide earned sick and safe leave to their employees, regardless of the size of your organization. The law is scheduled to go into effect on February 11, 2018. We recommend that you plan NOW for implementation!
I have 15+ employees. Does this impact me?
The Maryland Healthy Families Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide employees with paid sick and safe leave, regardless of whether the employees are full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal. If you employ 15 or more employees, you will be required to allow employees to earn at least 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours they work, up to 40 hours per year.
What if I have less than 15 employees?
Employers with fewer than 15 employees will be required to provide UNPAID sick and safe leave, regardless of whether the employees are full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal. You will be required to allow employees to earn at least 1 hour of UNPAID sick and safe leave for every 30 hours they work, up to 40 hours of UNPAID sick and safe leave per year.
What if I already provide sick leave that meets or exceeds the requirements?
You are already compliant with the new law and there is nothing else that you need to do. Carry on!
How do I determine “employer size?”
Look at the average monthly number of all employees (including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal) who were employed in your organization during the immediately preceding 12 months.
How do I grant the sick and safe leave?
Employers have options on how to grant the leave. You can either grant the maximum leave that an employee would accrue during the calendar year at the beginning of the calendar year or you can allow them to accrue it throughout the calendar year.
Do I have to grant sick leave carryover?
If you are on an accrual system, employees may carry over a maximum of 40 hours of earned sick and safe leave from year to year.
If you grant sick leave at the beginning of the year, you are not required to allow employees to carry over unused sick and safe leave.
The total amount of sick and safe leave an employee may use in a year is capped at 64 hours, even if their current year leave and carried over leave exceeds 64 hours.
What if my company offers Paid Time Off (PTO)?
If you are an employer who offers a combined “Paid Time Off” bank (versus separate Vacation, Sick, and Personal leave buckets), you may be able to use this to meet your obligations, as long as your PTO plan complies with the requirements of the new law.
What qualifies as “sick and safe leave?”
Employees may use sick and safe leave for the following reasons:
- Care or treatment of the employee’s or family member’s physical or mental illness, injury, or condition;
- Preventive medical care for the employee or family member;
- Maternity or paternity leave; and
- Absences that are necessary (whether for medical attention, victim assistance services, or legal services) due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against the employee or the employee’s family member.
For purposes of the Maryland Healthy Families Act, family member includes children, spouses, parents, siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and legal guardians; this includes in-law and step-family relationships of the aforementioned family members.
Are any employees NOT covered by the law?
The following classifications of employees are NOT covered by this law:
- Employees who regularly work less than 12 hours a week for the employer;
- Certain employees who are employed in a constructional industry and are covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement that waives these requirements; and
- Certain per diem employees in the health or human services industry (contact us for more information about this provision).
- Independent contractors.
- Licensed real estate salespersons or brokers.
- Those employees under the age of 18 before the beginning of the calendar year.
- Temporary staffing agency employees.
What if my organization does not comply?
You will want to make sure you comply to avoid penalties and consequences for non-compliance. If you fail to keep accurate records or refuse to allow the commissioner of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) to inspect a record, DLLR will presume that your organization is in violation of the law. Also, employees can file written complaints of violations of the law with the commissioner of the state DLLR and they will investigate your organization within 90 days of receiving the written complaint. If a violation is found, and you are unable to reach informal resolution, the commissioner will issue an order that describes the violation and directs payment for the leave and economic damages. The commissioner may also direct a payment of up to three (3) times the value of the employee’s hourly wage, and may also assess a civil penalty of up to $1000 for each employee for whom an employer is non-complaint. Failure to comply with these orders may result in further action against an employer. You will want to ensure that you comply with this new law to avoid potential financial risk to your organization.
Of course, please remember that, as an employer, you are not permitted to retaliate against any employee who is taking leave under this law.
What is next?
Take a deep breath and begin doing the following:
- Review your existing leave policies (PTO, Sick, Vacation, etc.) – you may already be compliant. Call us if you are unsure.
- Make sure all employees are earning sick and safe leave. You are required to provide them notice and documentation of accrued leave.
- Review your payroll, recordkeeping, and administrative procedures to ensure you have the processes in place to track and document earned sick and safe leave.
- Ensure your notice requirements are met.
We understand that the new law may impact your business. We can work with you to implement strategies that make sense for your company. HR Strategy Group can help you with specific concerns, as well as implementation of the Maryland Healthy Families Act. We are here to assist you with your strategic initiatives to move your company forward.
I am an employer with employees in Montgomery County. Does this change anything for me? You must comply with the requirements of both the state and local laws as there are some slight variations.
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