A spokeswoman for Hogan declined to say whether the governor would support a bill that required businesses to offer paid sick leave.
“We are in the very beginning of a long legislative session, and as we all know, bills have the tendency to look much different by the time April comes around,” spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said in a statement. “The Governor and his staff will be monitoring countless pieces of legislation as this session plays out over the next several months.”
Maryland currently does not require employers to provide paid sick leave. More than 400,000 workers in the state do not receive paid time off of any kind, according to a 2013 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit focused on women’s issues.
Nationwide about 74 percent of full-time, private-sector workers have access to paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That shrinks to 50 percent among among businesses with fewer than 50 workers.
“We’ve been adamant in our opposition,” said Deriece Pate Bennett, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for government affairs. “It’s one more nail in the coffin.”
Under Pugh’s proposal, businesses with 10 or more employees would be required to offer workers an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked — about seven days a year. State workers accrue 1.5 hours of sick leave for every 26 hours, or up to 15 days a year.
The sick leave could be used to care for family members. The mandate would apply only to workers who have been at a business for more than three months and have a regular schedule. Businesses would be required to keep records and face penalties for violating the rules.
“So many times we see people coming into the workplace ill … it ends up costing more,” Pugh said. “We’re not saying give sick leave. We’re saying allow people to earn sick leave.”
A 2014 legislative analysis of a previous sick leave proposal found that it would cost the state roughly $500,000 to track the policy and likely increase expenditures significantly more, as the policy affects state contractors and local jurisdictions.
The proposed legislation would burden small firms and interfere with the flexibility employers can offer currently, said Jessica Copper, Maryland director for the National Federation of Independent Business, who plans to testify against the bill at a hearing next week. The group has produced research showing it could cost states thousands in lost jobs.
“This is a well-intended bill … but the consequences of that cookie-cutter type of mandate on a small employer are sometimes not thought out,” Cooper said.
Del. Kathy Szeliga, minority whip in the House of Delegates, said her experience running a contracting company had led her to believe that employees often do not use sick leave as the law intends. But she signaled the openness to a more general leave policy.
“What we found our paid sick leave turned into was a fishing day,” said Szeliga, a Republican who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties. “So perhaps not calling it a ‘sick day,’ maybe it’s called leave and then somehow we have to encourage our employees to save them up for a day when they actually are sick and are going to need them.”
“Whatever we call it, we want to make sure people have what they need when they get sick,” Pugh responded.
Employees typically use about 2.8 days sick days a year, excluding maternity leave, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research study.