Paid family, medical leave awaiting Maryland governor's signature

Is government forcing your employer to become your nanny and caretaker?

ANNAPOLIS (April 1, 2022)—Maryland employees could get up to three months of paid leave to support their family or take care of medical issues if Republican Gov. Larry Hogan chooses to sign the bill that won final approval in the Senate Thursday.

The Time to Care Act (SB275), previously approved by the House of Delegates, is now on Hogan's desk for his possible signature. By sending the bill to Hogan by Friday, lawmakers have time before the end of their 90-day session to override a possible veto.

The bill, which has been in the works in some form since 2019, establishes the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which will provide up to 12 weeks of benefits to a covered individual who must take leave from work for specific personal or family circumstances.

The program would go fully into effect Jan. October 1, 2023.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act protects employees' jobs for up to 12 weeks when they are out, but it does not supply financial support and only applies to businesses with more than 50 employees and public employers.

"No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and getting treatment for cancer, caring for their newborn, or being with a parent during their last days," Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, said in a tweet. "Soon, Marylanders will no longer have to make that impossible decision."

Under the bill, part-time and full-time employees who have worked 680 hours over a 12-month period would be able to receive 12 weeks of pay. They would be eligible for between $50 and $1,000 a week, depending on the worker's average weekly salary. Employees and employers would be required to contribute a portion of a worker's wages every week. The contribution cannot exceed 0.75% of a worker's total wages.

This is not the first time Maryland lawmakers have tried to address the topic of paid family leave. In 2019, the then Time to Care Act did not make it out of committee. In 2020, another version was pushed away by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. A third version was introduced in 2021, but it, too, died in committee.

Maryland is not the only state trying to address paid family leave this year. Thirteen other states were considering similar legislation during their respective sessions.

The bill survived opposition from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Retailers Association and some small business owners, who said the program would be too much of a burden.

Bruce Spencer, who owns an auto repair shop in Anne Arundel County, testified against the bill during a hearing at the beginning of the legislative session. Spencer said it is not financially feasible for him to hold a job open for 12 months, and it is impossible for him to fill skilled positions with temporary workers.

"We build our labor as a revenue source," Spencer told legislators. "We have four technicians. You take one out, that is 25% less revenue. The thought of a temporary workforce in a very skilled position is almost nonexistent."

Regan Vaughan, director of advocacy for Catholic Churches Charities of Baltimore, also testified before legislators. She said in an interview with Capital News Service Thursday the legislation could benefit employers and employees.

"People need time to care for themselves and their families," Vaughan said. "A lot of businesses realize employees have families. By having the entire state participate, we can keep costs down.

She said she and those who support the bill are pleased to see it so close to fruition after so many years.

"We're elated to be where we are right now," she said.

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