Maryland legislators recently passed the monumental Time to Care Act of 2022. The law establishes a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program, out of which eligible employees can request leave and receive benefits. In the past, employees depended on employers to provide leave and benefits coverage. The Time to Care Act balances the scales by creating baseline requirements for employer-provided Maryland paid family leave programs and offering a state-funded program to ensure eligible employees are covered.
Our team is here to answer any questions you may have about your rights and obligations under the new Maryland Time to Care Act. We focus on providing top-tier legal services to employees and employers throughout Maryland.
An Overview of Maryland’s Time to Care Act of 2022
The Time to Care Act accomplishes two broad goals:
- It establishes a statewide, taxpayer-funded FAMLI Program to provide eligible employees paid family and medical leave benefits.
- It sets out minimum paid family leave benefits that employers must provide to eligible employees.
The Maryland paid family leave law recognizes the need to protect workers’ rights to care for their families without fear of losing their jobs or being unable to support their families. It also acknowledges the contributions of service members and the unique needs that their work requires of them and their families.
Not every employer must participate in the program, only those with at least 15 employees. If an employer opts out, they must provide family and medical leave benefits through a comparable fund. In other words, whatever program they choose must offer benefits that are at least as good as the state fund.
When Does the Time to Care Act Go into Effect?
Different parts of the act go into effect between now and January 1, 2025. On June 1, 2023, the Maryland Secretary of Labor will decide how much people should pay into the FAMLI Program. The Secretary of Labor will reassess the fund’s cost two years later and decide how much people should contribute to the fund in the future.
Employers with 15 or more employees, eligible employees, and self-employed individuals who elect to participate in the program must contribute to the FAMLI fund starting October 1, 2023.
Starting on January 1, 2025, eligible employees can begin taking paid leave under the new program.
What Employees Receive Benefits Under the Act?
The new law covers employees who have worked at least 680 hours during the previous 12 months from when leave is to begin. Self-employed individuals who elect to participate in the program may also receive coverage. But once a self-employed individual chooses to participate in the program, they must do so for an initial minimum of three years.
Note that eligible employees contribute to the fund automatically when they pay their portion of the payroll tax.
Which Employers Can or Must Participate in the FAMLI Fund?
Employers who have 15 or more employees must contribute to the program. Employers with less than 15 employees can elect to participate as well, but they most likely are not required to do so.
As we discussed earlier, self-employed individuals can choose to contribute to and receive benefits under the program. They must sign an initial three-year commitment to contribute to the fund if they select this option. After that, they contribute on a year-to-year basis.
What Reasons Can Employees Request Leave Under the New Paid Family and Medical Leave Law?
Eligible employees can request leave for the following reasons:
- To care for a newborn baby during its first year of life;
- To care for a child who is newly placed in the home through adoption, foster care, or kinship care;
- To receive medical care for a serious condition that prevents the employee from performing their job duties;
- To care for a family member who has a severe medical condition;
- To care for a service member who is the employee’s next of kin; and
- To address an exigent circumstance related to the deployment of the employee’s family member.
“Deployment” includes situations where the employee or family member is sent away on orders, including for training, and can’t attend work. The new law includes additional circumstances that might qualify you to request leave from work.
What Kinds of Benefits Do Employees Receive Under the Act?
In most cases, eligible employees can receive up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in the 12 months ending on the day leave is to begin. In limited situations, the employee may be able to take more than 12 weeks of leave.
Employees may request total or partial paid leave, meaning they may receive wage replacement benefits while away from work. The current law has several schedules for determining the benefits you can receive while on leave. They vary from a minimum of $50 per week to a maximum of $1,000 per week until January 1, 2025. The Secretary of Labor will reevaluate the program and use a formula to determine the minimum and maximum weekly benefits after January 1, 2025.
How Do Employees Request Leave Under the Time to Care Act of 2022?
Employees may request benefits by filing a claim with the Secretary of Labor after January 1, 2025 (when the program begins). As of October 27, 2022, the Secretary of Labor has not issued forms that employees should use to file a claim. As we get closer to the effective date of the benefits program, we should hear more details on how employees can request leave.
Smithey Law Group LLC—We Can Help You Understand Your Rights and Obligations Under the New Maryland Law
With new laws come exciting changes but also uncertainty. Smithey Law Group LLC is here to demystify the process of complying with Maryland’s paid family leave law.
If you have questions about your obligations or rights under the paid family leave law, call our office at 410-919-2990 or contact us online today. Attorney Joyce Smithey has been named a Super Lawyer for her outstanding work in the labor and employment law arena. She is the author of an employment law treatise and contributes to reputable legal journals.