The Montgomery County Council Tuesday passed a bill requiring all employers to provide employees with paid sick leave and time off.
The unanimous vote came after the council voted on about a dozen proposed amendments dealing with potential exemptions for small businesses, if the sick leave can carry over to another calendar year, how the law will affect seasonal workers and other issues.
Here are five key facts about the new law:
The bill is one of the strongest paid sick leave laws in the nation
The Montgomery County law is the country’s twenty-third paid sick days law, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a group of advocates for paid sick days.
It’s also one of the strongest, according to the group, because it will apply to all workers in the county. Other jurisdictions, including Portland, New York City and Washington, D.C., impose fewer required sick days for employees of small companies.
For most employers, Montgomery County’s law will require paid leave at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours an employee works in the county, up to 56 hours of paid leave in a calendar year.
The bill’s impact on very small businesses was the most contentious issue
The council passed an amendment by member Marc Elrich that requires employers of fewer than five employees to provide up to four days of paid leave and three days of unpaid leave. Elrich said he recognized that the business community had concerns.
Several area chambers of commerce sent a letter to council members Monday asking that all businesses with fewer than 10 employees be exempt from any paid sick leave requirements.
Council member Nancy Floreen submitted an amendment with that proposal, but it was voted down 8-1.
Council member Roger Berliner proposed two other approaches that were also voted down: Requiring only unpaid leave for companies with fewer than five employees and a tiered-system that would provide three days paid sick leave with businesses of fewer than 10 employees and five days of paid sick leave for businesses with 10 or more employees.
The bill won’t go into effect until Oct. 1, 2016
The three members of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee didn’t agree on all aspects of the bill, but they did agree it shouldn’t be put into effect for a while.
Council President George Leventhal has said delaying implementation would give business owners more time to prepare for the law and all the necessary paperwork that might come as a result.
Council members cited President Obama as a reason for passing the bill
The council’s most ardent supporters of the bill cited President Obama’s call for paid sick and family leave in his State of the Union address earlier this year as a reason for their support.
More to the point, council members said the unlikeliness that Congress will act on the issue on a national level meant they had a special responsibility to do so locally. Advocates said the bill will provide paid sick leave and time off for about 100,000 county residents that don’t have paid leave now.
Some said they hope state lawmakers will follow suit.
“For us to take this step and to lead once again hopefully will send a message to our state leaders to seriously think about this,” said council member Nancy Navarro. “Because at the end of the day, when we talk about productivity and the changing nature of our workforce and the workplace, these are the types of policies that encourage people not only to seek employment in companies but also help the bottom lines of those companies.”
Many employers and employees won’t be affected by the law
The bill won’t mean changes for those full-time workers who already receive at least 56 hours of paid leave of any kind. Throughout the debate, council members acknowledged that many county employers already provide significant paid leave.