Maryland Emergency Leave Mandate
Update Applicable to:
Employers with essential workers in Maryland
On May 28, 2021, Governor Hogan passed the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (HB 581).
What are the details?
The act has gone into effect starting on June 1, 2021, until the state of emergency expires and will provide paid public health emergency leave (“PHEL”) to essential workers during a catastrophic health emergency. The employer will also need to provide applicable working conditions that comply with a Federal or State agency during an “emergency”. The Act is in effect, but employers are not required to provide the leave until the date on which federal or state funding has been made available to them for this purpose.
Essential employers will be defined by the Governor, or Federal/State Agency as critical to remaining in operation during the emergency and employs essential workers. Essential workers are defined as any individual who performs a duty or work responsibility during an emergency that cannot be performed remotely or is required to be at the worksite and provides services that the Essential Employer determines to be essential or critical to its operations.
The PHEL mandate allows workers to take paid leave for specific COVID-19 related reasons and will be in addition to other paid leave benefits required under Maryland law. Full-time essential workers that work at least 40 hours per week will receive 112 hours of PHEL. While part-time essential workers receive PHEL based on the average of their worked hours in a six-month period that ends on the date the public health emergency was declared. Alternatively, if there were no hours worked in that period the PHEL will need to be calculated based on the greater of either the reasonable expectation at the time of hiring or the average number of hours per week that the Essential Worker is normally scheduled to work.
The act permits essential employers to adopt and enforce policies prohibiting improper use of PHEL and payout of unused PHEL is not required when an employee leaves employment. Essential employers may require a worker who uses PHEL to provide documentation of their need for the leave. If the employee fails or refuses to provide the documentation, the employer may refuse to pay the employee for the PHEL taken.
The PHEL is not currently required to be provided as there is no funding provided to the Act at this time. With past similar legislation, the state eventually passed amendments to remove budget considerations from the effectiveness of the law. With this in mind, employers may find that the law will go into effect before a budget is assigned to it. Once funding is made available to Essential Employers, they will need to provide the PHEL to their essential workers for reasons specific to the worker or a covered family member. The following reasons are applicable due to the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency:
- Will be isolating, without an order to do so, as the worker is diagnosed with the communicable disease that is the subject of the emergency or experiencing symptoms of it and is waiting for test results to confirm.
- Is seeking or obtaining medical diagnosis, preventative care, or treatment because the employee has been diagnosed.
- To care for a family member who is isolating, without an order to do so, because of a diagnosis of the disease.
- If a public health official or health care professional determines the Essential Worker or their family member’s presence at their place of employment or in the community jeopardizes the health of others because of their exposure to, or exhibited symptoms associated with, the disease, regardless of whether the Essential Worker or family member has been diagnosed with the communicable disease.
- To care for a family member when the care provider of the family member is unavailable due to the emergency, or if the family member’s school or place of care has been closed by a federal, state, or local public official or at the discretion of the school or place of care due to the emergency, including if the school or place of care is physically closed but providing instruction remotely.
The act can be read here.
An Article on the act can also be read here.
What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the information provided, as well as the law, and start setting up the policies that will be required, once this bill is in effect.