A Strong Earned Sick Days Law Will Bring Major Benefits for Maryland Families and our Economy

Each time they get sick or need to care for a sick child, 750,000 working Marylanders are still forced to choose between their health and a day’s pay because they aren’t able to earn paid sick time at work.[i] Some of these workers may even lose their jobs for missing a shift to see a doctor or care for a loved one. Lawmakers can change that in 2018 by voting to make the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act law.

Who Doesn’t Have Paid Sick Leave?

750,000 Maryland workers currently don’t have access to paid sick leave, including:

  • 140,000 food workers like cooks, servers, bakers, and butchers
  • 52,000 health care and health care support workers like physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and nursing aides
  • 40,000 personal care and service workers like childcare workers, home care workers, hairstylists, and animal care workers
  • 11,000 Education, training, and library workers like preschool teachers, K-12 teachers, and librarians.
  • 5,000 Community and social service workers like counselors and social workers

When the people who prepare our food, care for us when we are ill, and take care of our children can’t take time off to recover from an illness, it poses a threat to public health.


Source: MDCEP analysis of 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and Milli 2017. Food workers are defined as food preparation and serving related occupations and food processing occupations.

The Healthy Working Families Act will provide earned sick days to about 488,000 Marylanders who currently must take unpaid time off when they or a loved one gets sick.[ii] The bill also provides paid leave to workers experiencing domestic violence and extends important job protections to thousands of additional employees at small businesses. The General Assembly passed the Healthy Working Families Act during its 2017 session, but the bill is now in limbo because Gov. Hogan vetoed it.

The governor has now called on legislators to move backward on earned sick days by instead passing a bill that includes fundamental flaws taken from the weaker bill he proposed in the 2017 session. To support this effort, he convened a task force composed entirely of representatives of his own administration. However, Maryland workers don’t need another study or a watered-down bill that doesn’t offer meaningful protections. The evidence is in: Earned sick days are good for working families, public health, and the economy. The General Assembly should reaffirm its commitment to a healthy Maryland by overriding Gov. Hogan’s veto and making the Healthy Working Families Act law.

Earned sick days promote public health:

  • Cities and states that guarantee earned sick days have lower rates of flu infection
  • Nearly half of restaurant-related outbreaks of foodborne illness are associated with employees working while sick
  • Workers with earned sick days are more likely to receive preventive health care that can catch major illnesses early

Earned sick days are part of a vibrant, growing economy:

  • Guaranteeing earned sick days would save Marylanders up to $36 million per year through improved productivity and reduced health costs
  • A majority of business owners and executives support earned sick days, even when polled by anti-regulation political consultants
  • On average, cities and states that passed earned sick days guarantees had equivalent or stronger job growth in comparison to the United States overall 12 months after implementation.

The Healthy Working Families Act is the only meaningful earned sick days proposal on the table. Gov. Hogan’s proposal would:

  • Allow companies to impose unrealistic advance notice requirements, even for unforeseeable illnesses.
  • Not require the government to investigate alleged violations or take meaningful enforcement action.
  • Repeal the earned sick days law in effect in Montgomery County, taking effective protections away from workers who already enjoy them.

Read the full report

[i]Jessica Milli, “Access to Paid Sick Time in Maryland,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2017, https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/B364.pdf

Note that the critique of this estimate found in the final report of the governor’s Committee on Paid Leave misleadingly cites a statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that applies to a census division that does not include Maryland. Using the correct value from the same source cited in the committee report, 36 percent of private-sector workers in the census division that includes Maryland did not have access to paid sick leave in 2016. Applying this value to private-sector employment data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages yields an estimate of more than 750,000 Maryland workers without paid sick leave.

[ii] “Healthy Working Families Act Allows 700,000 Marylanders to Earn Sick Days,” Maryland Center on Economic Policy, 2017, http://www.mdeconomy.org/healthy-working-families-act-allows-488000-marylanders-to-earn-sick-days/