Advocates Consider Revisions to Statewide Sick Leave Legislation

The Working Matters Coalition, the group of advocates behind last year’s Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, is currently preparing for the next Maryland General Assembly Session with conversations with advocates and those with ideas for amendments to statewide sick leave legislation. Two new amendments to the bill are currently under consideration.

The first amendment would relieve employers already providing paid leave options an exemption from modifying their existing practices. This idea comes from the language from the District of Columbia’s paid sick leave law:

Current leave policies. An employer with a paid leave policy providing paid leave options, such as a paid time-off program or universal leave policy, shall not be required to modify such policy if the policy offers an employee the option, at the employee’s discretion, to accrue and use leave under terms and conditions that are at least equivalent to the paid leave prescribed in this chapter.

Another amendment being considered for statewide legislation comes from the sick leave law recently passed in Montgomery County law.  Instead of requiring all employers to allow for carry over of unused leave at the end of the year, employers would be permitted to provide all of the leave upfront on the first day of the year.  This ensures that employees have leave available to them on the first day of the new year, instead of having to start every year with zero leave in the bank (this is the intent behind requiring carry over).  The Montgomery County law states:

Unless an employer awards the full amount of earned sick and safe leave that an employee would earn over the entire calendar year at the beginning of a calendar year, an employer must permit an employee to carry the balance of any unused earned sick and safe leave over to the next calendar year, but an employer must not be required to permit an employee to carry over more than 56 hours of unused earned sick and safe leave.

If an employee is allowed to use earned sick and safe leave before it has accrued, or if an employee who receives the full amount of earned sick and safe leave at the beginning of the year and uses more than would have been earned up to that time, the employer may deduct the amount paid for the earned sick and safe leave from the wages paid to the employee on the termination of employment[.]

In years past, MACo has opposed mandatory sick leave legislation, in part because of administrative issues involved with moving to a new leave system. There are also additional administrative and fiscal concerns with providing sick leave to all county seasonal, temporary, and grant-funded positions. MACo will be reaching out to county governments who have expressed concerns with the sick leave legislation in the past to review these possible amendments and determine any continuing effects of potential legislation. As described in last year’s fiscal note on the sick leave bill, there are several Maryland local jurisdictions in addition to Montgomery County provide earned sick leave. The Department of Legislative Services states,

. . . some local jurisdictions only incur minimal or no fiscal impact for allowing earned safe leave, such as the cities of Frederick and Havre de Grace, and Baltimore and Garrett counties, since these counties provide the earned sick leave required by the bill.

For more information on the history behind sick leave legislation in Maryland, see our previous posts, Maryland Sick Leave Advocates Talk Strategy with National, Local Allies and Sick Leave Bill Will Wait For Next Year, or contact Robin Clark at MACo.