Local businesses now must offer paid parental leave

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Employees in Montgomery County are now eligible for paid parental leave under an expansion of the county’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law unanimously passed by the County Council yesterday.

“Generally, local governments don’t pass parental leave,” said Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5), who was the lead sponsor on the bill. “The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t have parental leave as a right, and then there’s a few U.S. states that offer parental leave, but not Maryland.

“So every year there’s a bill in Annapolis and it doesn’t pass,” he continued. “So in the meantime, workers in Montgomery County are having babies or adopting babies or have foster kids and they can’t take off work.

“Plenty of businesses offer [parental leave] voluntarily to get good workers but there’s certainly plenty of businesses, especially in the service sector, that don’t,” Hucker added.

The expansion of the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law allows workers to use paid leave to spend time with a newborn, or after a child is placed with the employee for adoption or foster care, within one year of the birth, adoption or placement.

Hucker cited the many life changes and other arrangements that go along with the arrival of a new child in a household as one reason parental leave is important, along with the opportunity to bond with the new family member.

“Under Maryland law, you can’t even put a child in child care, assuming you have the money to do that . . . you can’t even do it until the child is six weeks old,” he pointed out. “So what are you going to do?”

The bill affects all employers in the county. It requires them to provide one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours of work. Leave is capped at 56 hours/year (7 days) for employers of five or more employees and 32 hours (4 days) of paid leave and 3 days of unpaid leave for smaller employers.

The Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law was enacted in July 2015, but the effective date was delayed until Oct. 1, 2016 to give employers time to adapt their payroll systems to the law. The expansion was passed as expedited legislation and is effective immediately.

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