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Maryland lawmakers override governor’s veto of paid family leave bill

It took the state legislature just one day after Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to override it on April 9, 2022.

In 2025, Marylanders will be able to take paid time off with job protection for certain major life and family events. In April 2022, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Time to Care Act of 2022 (TCA) and sent the bill to Gov. Larry Hogan for signature. Instead, he vetoed the TCA, but the legislature overrode his veto the next day.

The TCA adds Maryland to a minority of other states with paid family and medical leave laws (roughly one-fourth of them, plus Washington, D.C.). Most are our regional Northeast neighbors, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and the District.

Our country is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave, according to abc10.com, and only one of a handful of countries without it regardless of industrialization level or economic condition. Paid leave remains elusive on a national level. So, states like Maryland are stepping up to fill the void.

Maternity and family leave matters

Of course, it is not ideal for infants or parents to cut short the time needed to rest and bond after birth, adoption or new foster placement.

In Maryland and across much of the U.S., new mothers must cobble together maternity leaves that are as long as possible, but that they can afford. In addition to any unpaid or paid maternity leave employers provide (overall, a relatively uncommon benefit), many new moms (and sometimes dads) scrimp to preserve other kinds of paid time off like vacation or sick time to tack on to the maternity leave. These ad hoc leaves are seldom optimal for child development or mental health.

If eligible (and many are not), some may also use – unpaid – time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides up 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid time off annually. FMLA leave applies to care after the birth, fostering or adoption of a child, care for certain family members with serious health problems or recovery time from the employee’s own serious medical condition.

Unfortunately, some cannot afford to use FMLA leave because they cannot absorb the wage losses, which does not bode well for infants or their parents who have no backup state leave law or employer-provided leave.

Maryland legislators adopted paid family leave with their power to override a veto

TCA creates the Maryland Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (FAMLI) and the FAMLI Fund. The FAMLI Fund will be a state-managed insurance account funded with employer and employee payroll contributions. Leave benefits will be paid from this fund. (Similar in some (but not all) ways to unemployment insurance or Social Security benefit programs.)

The Maryland Secretary of Labor will largely administer FAMLI, including setting payroll tax rates and drafting comprehensive regulations by June 1, 2023. Taxes are due beginning Oct. 1, 2023, giving the fund time to grow before benefits start Jan. 1, 2025.

Employers of all sizes must participate in the leave program, but they are not liable for the associated payroll tax if they have fewer than 15 employees. Employers may also opt out of the FAMLI Fund and self-insure.

Benefits paid during an approved FAMLI leave will be $50 to $1,000 weekly, depending on the worker’s average weekly wage (subject to inflationary increases). Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave annually, either in one block or intermittently in four-hour blocks.

A Maryland employee is eligible for FAMLI benefits if they worked 680 hours or more in the 12 months before the requested leave. The program also provides for some participation by self-employed individuals.

Under FAMLI, paid leaves are allowed for:

  • An employee to get medical care for their own serious health condition
  • An employee to care for a close relative with a serious medical problem
  • An employee to care for a newborn or child placed for adoption, foster care, or kinship care during the one-year period from birth or placement
  • The employee to care for a next of kin military service member with a serious health condition
  • The employee to “attend to a qualifying exigency arising out of the deployment of a service member who is a family member”

We hope this new leave law will be a relief and provide answers to many Marylanders facing the personal need tor paid leaves from work.

(This link takes you to the Maryland General Assembly page for SB 275, which has further links to TCA’s text, Gov. Hogan’s veto letter, a detailed Fiscal and Policy Note from the Department of Legislative Services and other related materials.)

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