Maryland-based companies with 15 or more employees are required to offer paid sick leave to workers over the age of 18 who work 12 or more hours a week.

The Healthy Working Families Act, which was signed into law last month, requires employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, an hour of which is earned per 30 hours of work.

The sick days can be used for medical care for themselves or a family member, paternity or maternity leave, or domestic violence or sexual assault-related services, according to the law.

“There are so many people who take time off and get fired for it,” says Mindy Farber, an employment and labor law attorney and founder of Bethesda, MD-based law firm Farber Legal. “Hourly employees, non-exempt overtime [workers], those are the people who tend to be most exposed.”

The paid sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next, and employers have the choice of offering paid sick leave as a lump sum at the beginning of the year or let workers accrue sick leave hours, Farber says.

Companies with fewer than 15 employees must provide the same amount of time to their employees, but it doesn’t need to be paid.

See also: Four states vote to push minimum wage up

Maryland employers are also required to track hours and hold on to records for three years.

“We’re watching a lot of big changes in social policy, with sexual harassment now and committees being formed,” Farber says. “There’s been a seismic change in policy over the last few years.”

She points to cities and states raising the minimum wage — Maryland’s minimum wage jumps to $10.10 an hour in July, up from $9.25 — and offering paid parental leave as some liberal policies that created a climate for a paid sick leave bill to pass, even with Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto.

Employees can start racking up their paid sick leave hours. New hires, however, have to wait 106 days following their start date to become eligible for the benefit, Farber says. The law also stipulates that employees give as much advance notice as possible.

The legislation sets a state-wide precedent, although counties like Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, which offers a more expansive paid sick leave policy, have already implemented similar policies. The law stipulates that counties with more generous sick leave policies, like that in Montgomery County, must adhere to both county and state requirements.

Maryland becomes the ninth state to offer paid sick leave at a statewide or statewide and county- or city-wide levels.

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