Hucker Looks To Expand Sick Leave Law to Parental Uses

Hucker Looks To Expand Sick Leave Law to Parental Uses

County Council member's bill would allow employees to use sick leave to care for a newborn

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Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker

Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to enable workers in the county whose employers don’t have a paid parental leave policy to use accumulated sick leave days to take time off for childbirth or to help take care of a newborn.

The bill would enable employees who accrue sick leave under the council’s sick and safe leave law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, to use the time for parental purposes. The sick and safe leave law approved by the council in June 2015 lays out a number of reasons why employees can use sick days, such as for dealing with their own illness or that of a family member, but it did not specifically allow new parents to use the days to take care of a newborn.

“When the council passed the sick and safe leave law last year, we understood that men and women would need access to leave to care for themselves and for their families,” Hucker said in a statement. “This is especially important for new parents who want to spend time with their new children so they have the opportunity to develop strong family attachments and relationships.”

The council’s sick leave law was hailed as one of the strongest in the nation by employee advocates when it passed last year. Under the law, most employers in the county will be required to provide paid leave at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours an employee works, up to 56 hours of paid leave in a calendar year. The law does not go into effect until October because the council wanted businesses to have time to adjust to its requirements.

Maryland law requires employers of 15 to 50 employees to offer six weeks of unpaid family leave for a birth or adoption, while federal law requires companies with more than 50 employees to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave.

Hucker said his bill is a “step in the right direction,” although not a substitute for more comprehensive parental leave legislation.

The bill would also allow employees to use accumulated sick days while  navigate the adoption and foster care process.

A public hearing is scheduled to discuss the legislation at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the County Council Office Building in Rockville.

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