Alert! New Parental Leave Law Affecting Maryland Employers with 15 to 49 Employees.

Beginning October 1, 2014, all Maryland businesses with 15-49 employees will be required to provide six weeks of unpaid parental leave to an employee upon the birth of their child or the placement of an adopted or foster care child. This new law requires that the employer hold the employee’s job for up to six weeks or return the employee to an “equivalent position” when the employee returns within the six week leave period.

While under existing federal law employers with more than fifty employees are already required to grant 12 weeks of leave for various qualifying family and medical events, the new Maryland law is geared to providing employees who work for smaller employers with a watered-down version of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  Most significantly, the new Maryland law does not cover medical leave (as it is limited to parental leave) and it only provides for six weeks of leave.  However, medical coverage must be maintained in the same manner as if the employee had not taken leave.  Premiums may be recovered by the employer if the employee fails to return to work after the leave ends.

Nonetheless, for Maryland employers with 15-49 employees, now is the time to begin preparing for this new law.  To ensure compliance, employers should draft a parental leave policy that is consistent with new Maryland law, prepare the necessary forms needed to ensure compliance with the act, and plan on how your business will continue to operate when employees exercise their rights under the new law.