May 31, 2022

Maryland Paid Family and Medical Leave

In April 2022, Maryland enacted a paid family and medical leave (PFML) insurance program, providing partially compensated, job-protected employee leave for reasons related to the health and well-being of employees and their family members. Nearly all employers are covered. The program is funded through contributions by employers and employees, but employers with fewer than 15 employees are not required to contribute to the program, and some employer plans can be substituted for PFML.

Employer and employee payroll contributions begin Oct. 1, 2023, and benefits become available in 2025.

Covered Employers

The law applies to all employers that employ at least one individual in the state. However, it does not cover owners of a sole proprietorship or sole owners of a limited liability company, C corporation, or S corporation who are their only employees.

People who are self-employed may opt in to the program, but their initial participation must be for at least three years.

Covered Employees

Employees who worked at least 680 hours during the 12-month period before the leave is to begin are eligible for PFML.

Use of PFML

Notice Obligations of Employees

The law allows employers to require 30 days written notice of foreseeable leave; however, employee requests for PFML are submitted to and decided by the state.

For unforeseeable leave, employees must provide notice to the employer as soon as practicable and generally comply with the employer’s notice or procedural requirements for requesting or reporting other leave, as long as they do not interfere with the employee’s ability to use PFML.

Reasons for Leave

PFML is permitted for the following reasons:

  • For the care of a child during the first year after the child’s birth or placement through foster care, kinship care or adoption;
  • For the care of a family member with a serious health condition;
  • For a serious health condition of the employee that prevents the employee from performing the functions of their position;
  • For the care of a service member who is the employee’s next of kin; or
  • For a qualifying exigency arising from the deployment of a service member who is the employee’s family member.

Definition of “Family Member”

The law’s definition of “family member” is expansive, including:

  • A biological, adopted, step- or foster child of the covered individual; a child for whom the covered individual has legal or physical custody or guardianship; or a child for whom the covered individual stands in loco parentis, regardless of the child’s age;
  • A biological, adoptive, foster or stepparent of the covered individual or their spouse; the legal guardian or ward of the covered individual or their spouse; an individual who acted as a parent or stood in loco parentis to the covered individual or their spouse when the covered individual or the spouse was a minor;
  • The spouse of the covered individual;
  • A biological, adopted, step-, or foster grandparent of the covered individual;
  • A biological, adopted, step- or foster grandchild of the covered individual; or
  • A biological, adopted, step- or foster sibling of the covered individual.

Amount of Leave

The law allows 12 weeks of leave per employee per application year, plus an additional 12 weeks if an employee needs leave in a year for both their own serious health condition and for child bonding.

Intermittent Leave

Leave may be taken intermittently in increments of at least four hours; however, employees must make a reasonable effort to schedule the intermittent leave so it does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. In addition, employees must provide employers with reasonable and practicable prior notice of the reason for the intermittent leave.

Certification

The law requires certain certifications in support of claims for benefits. For leave relating to a serious health condition or a servicemember’s care or deployment, the certification must include:

  • The date the serious health condition of the family member, covered individual or service member began;
  • The probable duration of the serious health condition; and
  • Appropriate facts related to the serious health condition within the knowledge of the licensed health care provider.

In addition, the certification must include the following:

  • For a family member’s serious health condition: a statement that the employee needs to care for the family member and an estimate of the amount of time required to provide the care; or
  • For the employee’s serious health condition: a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of their position.

Certifications are also required for intermittent leave.

PFML Funding

The PFML law establishes a state fund to pay for the program. Employees and employers with at least 15 employees must contribute to the fund, beginning Oct. 1, 2023.

The state secretary of labor will set the program’s contribution rate and cost-sharing formula between employers and employees by June 1 every two years, beginning June 1, 2023. The employer’s share will fall within 25-75 percent of the whole. Employers must deduct employees’ contributions from their wages, but employers may pay part or all of the employee contribution.

Amount of PFML Compensation

PFML compensation benefits are based on a formula that takes into account the recipient’s average weekly wage (AWW) and the state average weekly wage (SAWW), as shown below.

If the employee's AWW is: Their weekly benefit amount is?
65 percent or less than the SAWW90 percent of their AWW
Greater than 65 percent of the SAW90 percent of their AWW up to 65 percent of the SAWW PLUS 50 percent of the portion of their AWW that exceeds 65 percent of the SAWW

Workers taking partially paid leave receive the lesser of the following in PFML benefits:

  • The amount required to make up the difference between their leave wages and the full wages they normally receive, or
  • If their AWW is greater than 65 percent of the SAWW, the sum of:
    • 90 percent of their AWW up to 65 percent of the SAWW, and
    • 50 percent of their AWW that is greater than 65 percent of the SAWW.

For calendar year 2025, the minimum weekly PFML benefit is $50 and the maximum is $1,000. Increases in the minimum and maximum amounts in subsequent years will be indexed to increases in the consumer price index. Every year on Sept. 1, the state secretary of labor will announce the maximum weekly benefit amount taking effect the following Jan. 1.

Notice Obligations of Employers

Employers must provide written notice of the law to each employee at the time of hire and annually thereafter. In addition, employers must notify employees of their eligibility for PFML, and of specified employee rights and obligations under the PFML law (including PFML claims procedures) within five days of the employee requesting PFML or the employer’s knowledge that an employee’s leave may qualify for PFML. The state department of labor will develop standard notices for employer use.

Private Plans

Employers’ private plans may satisfy their PFML obligations if the plan is offered to all PFML-eligible employees and meets or exceeds the employee rights, protections and benefits provided by the PFML law. Private plans may consist of employer-provided benefits, insurance or a combination of both, and they must be filed with the state department of labor for approval.

Employers and employees with approved private plans are not required to make PFML contributions.

Interaction With Other Leave

PFML runs concurrently with leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and employees must exhaust all employer-provided leave not required by law before receiving PFML benefits.

Job Restoration

With some exceptions, leave for a qualifying reason under the PFML law is job-protected. Job protection extends to cases where the employee is first exhausting employer-provided leave as required by the law.

Employers may terminate an employee on PFML leave only for just cause, and they may deny job restoration for an employee returning from leave only if:

  • The denial is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury to the employer’s operations;
  • The employer notifies the employee of its intent to deny restoration when it makes the determination the economic injury would occur; and
  • The covered individual elects not to return to employment after receiving notice of the employer’s intention to deny restoration, if PFML leave has already begun.

Maintenance of Benefits

The PFML law requires that health benefits be continued during PFML leave in the same manner as required under the FMLA. This means employers must maintain an employee’s group health plan coverage under the same terms and conditions that would have applied if the employee had not taken leave. The continuation of benefits requirement extends to cases where the employee is exhausting employer-provided leave first as required by the law.

Claims Administration

Workers file claims for PFML with the state department of labor, which must notify the worker’s employer of the claim within five business days. The department then approves or denies the claim and notifies the worker and employer of its decision. If the claim is approved, payment begins five days later and continues every two weeks until the end of the benefit period. Claim denials may be appealed.

Prohibited Actions and Enforcement

Employers that fail to pay their required PFML contributions are subject to penalties.

Employers may not discharge, demote or otherwise discriminate or take adverse action against an employee because they:

  • Inquired about, filed for or took PFML leave;
  • Communicated their intent to file a PFML claim, complaint or appeal; or
  • Testified or assisted in PFML enforcement proceedings.

The state secretary of labor may investigate employee complaints about violations of the PFML law and may order payment of wages, reinstatement and civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation. The PFML law allows workers to bring a civil suit to enforce the secretary’s orders. These suits may result in treble damages, punitive damages, counsel fees and injunctions, among other remedies.

More Information

Contact Apex Benefits for more information on employee leave laws in Maryland.

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