Editorial: Hogan sick leave plan a step in the right direction

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is again showing his ability to appeal to most common-sense Marylanders by taking up an issue long supported by Democrats — but scaling back onerous demands — when he announced earlier this week a plan to mandate paid sick leave.

Paid sick leave is important for workers' health and morale, but like any employer-offered benefits, the costs cannot be so burdensome that it squelches entrepreneurism and puts small companies, like many in Carroll County, out of business.


The governor's proposal would require companies with at least 50 employees to offer five paid sick days per year to anyone working full-time, and part-time employees to be covered after a minimum of 30 working hours. Fifty employees wasn't an arbitrary choice; it matches current federal standards under the Family Medical Leave Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Under Hogan's plan, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees that voluntarily offer paid sick leave would be eligible for up to $20,000 in tax relief incentives, which would cost the state about $63 million a year.

Democrats' proposals from a year ago would've required seven sick days for companies with 15 employees or more, and included benefits for part-time employees.

Paid sick leave allows workers the ability to address the health needs of themselves and their families without putting their job at risk. What's a single working mother to do, for example, when their child spikes a fever and can't go to day care, but she can't afford to take time off without pay?

And we all know the person who comes to the office when they are under the weather, and before you know it, everyone else is sick the next week.

Nevermind the productivity lost when someone continues to work while sick, rather than taking a day or two off to rest and get better, then returning healthy and more productive.

The challenge, especially for smaller employers, is to strike a balance between offering paid sick time as a benefit without crippling the bottom line, in turn stifling job creation. Gov. Hogan seems to be seeking that harmony between the two with his proposal, and the fact that both Democratic legislators and small business trade groups with opposing agendas bristled at the governor's plan should tell you he's probably on the right track.

As with many of Hogan's initiatives, he is trying to walk the fine line of progressive ideas that are popular in blue Maryland — three-quarters of respondents to a 2015 Goucher poll said they supported paid sick leave — while staying true to his own business background and priorities.

We think the governor's proposal is much easier for small and mid-sized business owners to swallow than potential mandates from the Democrat-controlled legislature, while still taking care of many Maryland workers who don't currently enjoy the basic benefit of paid sick leave at their jobs.

While the proposal doesn't go as far as one that Democrats in the House of Delegates passed a year ago, legislation that has Hogan's backing has a much better chance of getting the needed support of Republicans in both houses. If mandating paid sick leave is truly a priority for state Democrats, they would be wise to go along with the governor's plan to get the ball rolling in the right direction.