It’s an issue that’s been heard in the General Assembly before, but earned sick leave advocates said they’re confident the proposed legislation this year will go further than year’s past.
The 2016 Maryland Healthy Working Families Act requires any employer with 10 or more workers to provide earned paid sick leave. According to the bill, employees would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, not to exceed seven full days or 56 hours per year.
At a hearing on Tuesday, workers without the benefit said they've had to choose between their health and their paycheck, and they're hoping that with this bill they won't have to make that decision anymore.
Paul Brown was one of the advocates testifying on behalf of the bill. He’s a full-time security officer in Baltimore City and has been with his employer for 14 years. Because of an agreement with the union this is the first year he's been granted paid sick leave, he now gets one day.
“You can't afford to take off, so no matter how ill you feel, you still come to work,” said Brown.
He’s not alone in his fight for more paid sick time off. Advocates were in Annapolis asking again for legislation that mandates employers to provide workers with earned sick leave.
“Forty percent of Maryland's workers that's over 700,000 individuals are unable to earn a single paid sick day from their employers. This legislation is about ensuring that Maryland’s workers can do right by their families while at the same time succeeding at their jobs,” said Melissa Broome, the deputy director for Job Opportunities Task Force, and one of the founding members of Working Matters.
However, some businesses are pushing back against the formula proposed in the bill, calling it a “cookie-cutter” requirement that doesn’t work with every company.
“Businesses are not structured that way, they don't function that way, they need flexibility not rigidity they need pragmatic approaches that the bill does not allow and provide for. It's an enormous governmental intrusion into running a business on a day-to-day basis,” said Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist representing businesses that oppose the bill.
Bereano said it’s not that his clients don’t care about their workers, but that the requirements burdens employers and stifles business.
“The cost factor of this legislation is pretty astronomical,” Bereano said.
But a burden also falls on employees without the benefit.
“You need to be home to take care of your kids, but if you don't go to work, you don't get paid,” said Brown.
Advocates added that they've worked with opponents from past years to refine this piece of legislation and that they have more than 100 co-sponsors in the Maryland General Assembly.