County approves new bill on parental leave


The Montgomery County Council recently approved Bill 32-16, a law that will provide parents with paid parental leave for the birth and care of babies and recently adopted children.
Passed on Nov. 1, the bill went into effect immediately and extended the instances in which employees can claim paid leave listed in the Montgomery County’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law, which was passed in early October of this year. Now, in addition to personal and/or familial illness, business and/or child care closure due to public health emergency and situations involving domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, paid leave must be provided to parents for the birth, transition and care of newly born, adopted and fostered children.
The passage of this bill does not award parents with a set amount of paid parental leave, but rather allows them to use their acquired paid leave toward this cause. Montgomery County currently requires employers to provide one hour of “sick and safe leave” to employees for every 30 worked. Businesses with at least five employees must provide a maximum of 56 hours per year, while those with fewer than five must only provide a maximum of 32 hours.
In addition to Montgomery County law, the state currently has two main laws meant to protect employees’ rights to parental leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which pertains to employers of at least 50 people within a 75 mile area, and The Maryland State Parental Leave Act (PLA), which pertains to employers of 15 to 49 employees. The FMLA requires employers to provide at least 12 weeks of leave, while the PLA requires only six.
According to both laws, in order to be eligible for parental leave an employee must have been employed for at least 12 months in which they have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours.
Bill 32-16 was proposed to account for discrepancies in state parental leave policies that left some county employees without proper opportunities to acquire parental leave. While both the FMLA and PLA provide unpaid parental leave and the opportunity to substitute paid leave for parental leave upon the birth or placement of a new child, only the FMLA allows parents to use paid leave to care for them.
Another concern was that while the former county policy on sick and safe leave would most likely ensure parents of newborns could take leave, claiming illness, this policy would not work for adoptive or foster parents. In adding parental leave to the instances in which employers must allow the use of paid leave, the county ensures all are eligible for parental leave.
This law passed unanimously amongst the county council and was widely viewed as a necessary improvement upon previous law. “The County’s law providing paid leave is a critical protection for workers,” council member Tom Hucker said in the County Council’s press release. “Bill 32-16 is an important expansion of this law to allow parents the flexibility to use their leave to spend time with their children.”
The public has also demonstrated support for Bill 32-16, with several local organizations offering testimony in support of its passage. “This legislation will be a lifeline to many, primarily low-wage workers, in our county,” Laura Wallace of Jews United for Justice said in her testimony of support.
Students are pleased with the passage of this bill. “I think it’s a really good idea because it is important for parents to spend time with their children, especially when they just adopted or had them,” senior Emily Cheng said.


Sarah Greenberg

Senior News Editor