March 22, 2023
Employers– get ready to begin contributions for Maryland’s Time to Care Act (TCA) later this year.
As if employers didn’t already have enough struggles –labor shortages, demands for higher pay and hybrid work schedules - Maryland employers will now be required to provide paid family leave. Release of regulations for Maryland’s TCA are expected by June 1, which will explain contribution levels set to begin in October 2023 and details for how the system will be administered. With this looming, we thought it important to provide some highlights of the Act.
Although the Act will apply to all Maryland employers, only those with 15 or more employees will have to make contributions to the state-run program. Employers can opt out of the program if they establish private plans providing equivalent benefits. To claim TCA benefits, an employee must have worked at least 680 hours over the 12-month period immediately preceding the date on which leave is to begin.
Similar to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Maryland’s Healthy Working Family Act, leave can be taken: (i) if the employee has a serious health condition, (ii) to care for a family member with a serious health condition, (iii) to care for a child during the first year after the child’s birth or after the placement of a child through foster care, kinship care or adoption, (iv) to care for a service member who is the employee’s next of kin, or (v) if the employee has a qualifying exigency arising out of the deployment of a family member. If the leave is foreseeable, employees are required to notify their employer.
“Serious health conditions” include inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential healthcare facility, and continued treatment by a licensed healthcare provider. Leave may be taken over an extended period of time or intermittent (in 4 hour increments).
Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave per year and can receive an additional 12 weeks of leave per year (for a total of 24 weeks) if the employee takes leave for the care of a newborn, or placement for adoption or foster care, and for the employee’s own health condition during the same one-year period.
Employees must exhaust all employer-provided leave before receiving benefits under the TCA. TCA benefits available to an employee are designed to run concurrently with any applicable FMLA leave. Employees obtaining worker’s comp benefits are also generally exempt from TCA payments.
The Act is not designed to provide a complete replacement for wages. The weekly TCA benefit will range from $50 to $1,000. In 2026, the maximum amount will be adjusted consistent with the consumer price index for the region.
Similar to unemployment, the Department of Labor will notify an employer within five (5) business days after their employees apply for benefits. There will also be an appeal process and penalties for false statements. Employers refusing to comply with TCA requirements can be hit with treble damages and attorney’s fees.
Importantly, similar to the FMLA, except where the employee is terminated for cause, employees utilizing this benefit are entitled to return to “an equivalent position” upon expiration of their TCA leave unless the employer can establish reinstatement is a “substantial and grievous economic harm” to operations. No different from other laws protecting employees who exercise their rights underemployment laws, the TCA prohibits employee retaliation in any manner.
Undoubtedly, the TCA will require a lot of unpacking once regulations are released. RKW always has the backs of company owners and Human Resources professionals and will continue to keep you posted as new developments occur.