Paid Leave and Coronavirus – Part 29: Maryland Passes Public Health Emergency Paid Leave Mandate; The practical effect remains unclear – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Paid Leave and Coronavirus – Part 29: Maryland Passes Public Health Emergency Paid Leave Mandate;  The practical effect remains unclear – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Essential Workers are permitted to use PHEL for specific reasons
due to their own COVID-19-related needs, as well as the needs of
covered family members. Importantly, the Act does not expressly
provide PHEL in order to obtain COVID-19
vaccinations.3 Once funding is made available and assuming an
“emergency” is still in place in Maryland, full-time
Essential Workers who work at least 40 hours per week will receive
112 hours of PHEL. Part-time Essential Workers with a regular
schedule will receive an amount of PHEL hours equivalent to the
average hours worked during a typical 4-week working period.
Essential Workers with variable schedules will receive PHEL that is
equal to either their average number of hours worked in the 6-month
period ending on the date on which the public health emergency was
declared, or alternatively, if no hours were worked in that period,
the greater of either the reasonable expectation at the time of
hiring or the average number of hours per week that the Essential
Worker is normally scheduled to work. The PHEL mandate applies prospectively, and does not affect
traditional non-COVID-19 paid leave benefits required under state
or local law.4

Among other components,2 the Act requires that
“Essential Employers” provide their “Essential
Workers” with paid PHEL during a declared
“emergency.” The Act defines “emergency” as
“a catastrophic health emergency…that is the subject of an
executive proclamation under § 14–3A–02 of the
Public Safety Article and is related to a communicable
disease.” Such an “emergency” currently exists in
Maryland due to COVID-19 per the terms of Governor Hogan’s May
11 renewal of the previously declared State of Emergency. On April 12, 2021, H.B. 581 was passed by both chambers of the
Maryland General Assembly and sent to Governor Larry Hogan’s
desk. On May 28, 2021, Governor Hogan announced his intention to
allow the bill to become law without his signature. On June 1,
2021, H.B. 581 took effect.1

Despite COVID-19 and the new PHEL mandate, the practical effect
of the mandate is limited. Notably, without another renewal of the
Maryland State of Emergency due to COVID-19, the current
declaration will expire on June 11, 2021, and the PHEL mandate will
no longer apply. Additionally, employers are only required to
provide PHEL as of the date on which state or federal funding is
made available to them for this purpose. As of the date of this
publication, there is no funding stream identified within the
statute itself, in the corresponding Fiscal and Policy Note, or by
the Maryland Department of Labor. Although technically in effect, employers are not required
to provide leave until the date on which state or federal funding
is made available to them for this purpose. Currently, no funding
stream for the Act has been specified. It remains to be seen if and
when funding will be allocated. Additionally, even if funding is
made available, covered employers must only provide PHEL during an
“emergency” as defined under the Act (see below). The
current Maryland State of Emergency due to COVID-19 was 
renewed by Governor Hogan on May 12,
2021 (after regular renewals since March 2020),
and appears set to expire on June 11, 2021, unless renewed
further.

Covered Employers The Act covers “Essential Employers,” defined as
anyone who employs an “Essential Worker” (defined above),
including units of state or local government. It appears that the
PHEL mandate applies to all Essential Employers in industries and
sectors identified by the Governor or a federal or state agency as
critical to remain in operation during the emergency. The Act covers only “Essential Workers,” defined as
any individual who (1) performs a duty or work responsibility
during an emergency that cannot be performed remotely or is
required to be at the work site, and (2) provides services that the
Essential Employer determines to be essential or critical to its
operations.

Covered Individuals Key provisions of the PHEL mandate are summarized below.

The News Highlights

  • Paid Leave and Coronavirus – Part 29: Maryland Passes Public Health Emergency Paid Leave Mandate; The practical effect remains unclear – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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