The Maryland Department of Labor announced the first step in providing a state plan for Maryland workers to receive partial paid family and medical leave to help ailing family members, look after a newborn baby or spend time with a family member before military deployment.
On Sept. 29, the department approved the initial contribution rate for the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) state plan. The contribution rate will be 0.90% of covered wages divided equally (at 0.45% each) between the employer and employees at businesses with 15 or more workers.
“By setting the combined contribution rate at less than one percent of wages, and less than half a percent for workers and employers each, the Department is doing its part to make sure paid leave is affordable and sustainable for Maryland workers and employers in the long term,” Elliot Schreur, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Family and Medical Leave, said in a statement.
In “early 2024” the Department of Labor will establish rules and regulations needed to implement the program, according to the department’s website.
Employers do not have to participate in the state FAMLI plan, but if they opt out, they would have to offer a private leave plan from an approved insurer that provides the same level of leave coverage or better.
In fall of 2024, employers will have to select either the state’s paid family and medical leave plan or seek approval for a private plan.
Employers who choose to participate in the state plan will begin making contributions on Oct. 1, 2024, in order to fund benefits that will start in 2026.
In 2026, Maryland employees and self-employed workers who are insured under the state plan will be able to receive job protection and up to $1,000 a week for as long as 12 weeks to handle family and medical needs.
The program is the result of legislation passed in 2022, then amended in 2023 to expand the time allotted to implement the program.
As a public insurance fund supported through payroll deductions, the FAMLI program “makes it much more affordable for everyone, because it’s a very minimal amount, everyone is contributing and it’s there when you need it,” said Kali Schumitz, vice president for external relations for the Maryland Center on Economic Policy.
The center is part of the steering committee for the Time to Care Coalition, which advocates for paid family and medical leave.
“Right now it’s really unequal, who can take paid time off,” Schumitz explained.
“There are some employers that are able to provide those benefits to their employees. A lot choose not to or aren’t able to. So this ensures that virtually every worker in Maryland is able to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave to deal with those major life events,” she said.
“It’s an incremental step, but we’re very excited to see things moving along,” Schumitz said.