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Paid Sick Leave

FAQ for families

When does the Healthy Working Families Act go into effect?
The Healthy Working Families Act (HWFA) becomes a state law on February 11, 2018. On that day, covered employees
will begin earning paid or unpaid sick and safe leave.

What does this law do?
HWFA allows workers in Maryland to earn paid or unpaid sick and safe leave. HWFA is not a general paid-time off policy
but instead a law that will allow workers to take care of their health and safety and that of their family members.

Does HWFA apply to all of Maryland workers?
HWFA has certain limitations and does not apply to all of Maryland workers. Specifically, HWFA does not apply to the
following: agricultural workers; realtors, workers under the age of 18;workers employed by a temporary services agency
to provide temporary staffing services to another person; workers directly employed by an employment agency to
provide part-time or temporary services to another person; workers that regularly work less than 12 hours week;
workers in the construction industry covered by a collective bargaining agreement waiving sick and safe leave in clear
and unambiguous terms; workers that are on-call in the health or human services industry that can reject or accept a
shift, not guaranteed to be called for work and not employed by a temporary staffing agency. 

Which workers get paid versus unpaid sick and safe leave?
  • Those that work for employers that have 15 or more employees can earn paid sick and safe leave.
  • Those that work for employers that have 14 or less employee can earn unpaid sick and safe leave.
What is the difference between sick leave and safe leave?
Sick leave is the time used to take care of an illness and/or preventive care. Safe leave is the time used to address a
situation in which safety is at risk, such as domestic violence. Under HWFA, both types of leave are permitted.

How soon can an employee use sick and safe leave?
An eligible worker begins earning sick and safe leave on February 11, 2018. HWFA states that employers may require
new employees to wait 106 days before they can use their earned leave, though they begin accruing it as soon as they
start working. However, employers may choose to allow their employees to access their earned leave at any point prior
to the 106-day waiting period.

How much sick and safe leave do employees earn?
Employees earn 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours of work, and the employer may limit total earned leave to 40 hours in
one year. However, employers may choose to be more generous in the amount of leave an employee may earn.

What happens if the worker does not use the leave they earned in that year?
The worker may carry over unused leave but will be capped at 64 hours of leave. Employers may choose to give a lump
sum of leave at the beginning of the year instead of permitting carry over.

How much leave can a worker use at any point?
An employer may not require a worker to take leave in an increment of time not exceeding 4 hours.

How does HWFA impact businesses that already provide sick days to their employees?
The business may continue with their current paid-time off policy so long as the policy meets the law’s minimum time
requirements (up to 40 hours per year) and allows workers to use the time off for sick and safe leave.

Can my employer ask for proof that I was sick or that I took leave related to domestic violence or stalking?
HWFA allows employers to ask for verification after an employee has taken leave for two-consecutive work shifts.
Employers are not required to ask for verification.

Can an employer deny my sick leave?
Employers may deny a request for leave if the employee failed to provide a notice as soon as practicable and/or failed to
comply with the employer’s notice requirements. Private employers licensed under Title 7 or Title 10 of the Health –
General Article that provide services to developmentally disabled or mentally ill individuals may deny a request for leave
if the employee’s request would cause a disruption in services to the individual receiving care.

Do employers have to notify their employees of this new law?
Yes. Employers must notify their employees if they can earn leave under HWFA by way of a notice. The notice must
include a statement of how the sick and safe leave is accrued, the purposes for which the leave may be used, the
purposes for which the leave may not be used, a statement that the employer will not take adverse action against
employees that use leave, and a warning that complaints made in bad faith by employees may be punishable by law.

Are employers required to inform employees of how much time they have earned?
Yes. HWFA states that employers must provide a statement in writing to the employee regarding the amount of earned
sick and safe leave that is available for use by the employee. This statement must be provided to the employee at the
time wages are paid to the employee.

What can a worker do if they believe their employer is not following this new law?
Employees who believe their employer violated the HWFA will be able to file a complaint with the state’s Department of
Labor and Licensing Regulation (DLLR) once forms and regulations are complete. However, there is pending legislation
that would delay enforcement (and only enforcement, not coverage, accrual or use) of this new law until April 12, 2018.
The delay is intended to give DLLR the time to draft regulations and set in place a formal complaint process.

FAQ for Employers 

No Impact on:

1.      Existing paid leave policies, including Paid Time Off (PTO) policies, if they provide at least 5 days that can be used for sick and safe leave for full-time employees and the minimum prorated amount for part-time employees.

No Impact on the following types of employees:

1.      Under the age of 18;

2.      Independent contractors; or

3.      Working less than 12 hours a week.

Protects management on:

1.      Barring use of leave during first 106 calendar days of employment;

2.      Capping earned leave at 40 hours;

3.      Capping use of earned leave at 64 hours per year;

4.      Capping accrual of earned leave at 64 hours per year;

5.      Accrual during pay period when an employee works fewer than 24 hours.

6.      Capping unused accrued leave carry over to 40 hours;

7.      No accrued carry over if the employer pays out the unused leave;

8.      No reinstatement of earned leave if employee was rehired after 37 weeks;

9.      Paying out earned leave when employee leaves the business;

10.   Requiring a 7 day notice for foreseeable use;

11.   Denying leave if employee does not provide notice and absence would disrupt business;

12.   Denying leave if employee failed to verify earlier absence;

13.   Requiring verification from employee after two missed shifts of worker;

14.   Requiring verification from employee if agrees to verification at time of hire and leave was taken between 107 and 120th day of employment;

15.   Requiring employees to take leave in up to 4 hour increments; and

16.   Prohibiting improper use or pattern of abuse in using paid leave.

Protects flexibility for workers and employers on:

1.      Permitting voluntary shift swapping, including non-tipped restaurant employees; and

      Industry-specific exemptions:

1.      Restaurants - Shift swapping for tipped employees who need employer to arrange it for them.  Employer can offer employee choice of earning min wage for that shift or working equivalent hours the same or next pay period. Employer can alternatively just choose to pay minimum wage for absence.  Employer need not offer shift swap if it results in overtime to employee.  Employer may deduct absence as leave.

2.      Agriculture – complete exemption;'

3.      Real estate brokers / sales people – complete exemption;

4.      Staffing and employment agencies;

5.      Union construction workers with an express waiver; and

6.      DD and Mental Health Community Providers – may deny leave where the leave is foreseeable and absence would cause disruption to a person receiving services.