(The Center Square) – Maryland Democrats recently declared their intention to pass a bill this year that would require employers to provide paid family and medical leave to employees.

Termed the Time to Care Act of 2022, Senate Bill 0275 would create a new program in the Maryland Department of Labor called the Family Medical Leave Insurance Program.

Following on the heels of the pandemic, this bill would make things very hard for small businesses, said Mike O’Halloran, Maryland and Delaware state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“We’re talking about a labor cost line item that’s, you know, a few thousand dollars for a small business with 15 employees – that’s a lot of money,” he told The Center Square.

O’Halloran pointed out inflation is hitting everyone, not just consumers. Inflation rose 7% in February alone, he said. Coupled with supply chain issues and rising labor costs, small businesses don’t need another cost to do business, O’Halloran stated.

Democratic lawmakers, however, don’t see it that way.

“Studies show that companies actually save money and maintain costs by retaining employees when they implement or expand paid family leave benefits,” said Maryland Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County), as reported by WTOP News.

Based on their most recent survey, NFIB reported 80% of its members are in opposition to this bill. O’Halloran added many are saying point-blank they cannot afford it.

There are ways for businesses to afford this bill, O’Halloran notes, but they are not palatable to workers or the proponents of the bill.

“More than likely an employer is going to say, ‘I can’t afford to do this, so I guess I’ve got to close up or I’ve got to cut employees or cut their hours,’” he said.

Benefits the bill should provide include 12 weeks of paid leave and protections against job loss if paid leave is utilized, according to a coalition behind the bill.

O’Halloran said employers and employees are in the best position to decide what benefits, including leave, are best for them in their situation – not the state.

“We’re not just talking about leave benefits, we can talk about retirement or, you know, a take-home car or a cellphone – things that employees may be well more interested in having,” he said.

If employers are forced to adopt this bill, they will replace benefits they aren’t required to give with these mandated benefits – benefits employees may have preferred, he pointed out.

“Small biz owners are human beings too,” O’Halloran said. “They’re not these Dickensian textile factory managers that are strapping 10-year-old children to sewing machines 12 hours a day. That is not the case. The reality is these employers are doing whatever they possibly can to provide their employee’s flexibility. But these one-size-fits-all mandates that Annapolis constantly passes onto the backs of small businesses owners and their workers just do not work.”

This article was originally published on TheCenterSquare.com.

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