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New Paid-Leave Law Takes Effect Friday

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A new law will guarantee paid time off to 85% of Maine workers. (Clarksgirl/Morguefile)
A new law will guarantee paid time off to 85% of Maine workers. (Clarksgirl/Morguefile)
December 28, 2020

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Starting Friday January 1, 85% of workers in Maine will be able to earn paid time off.

The Earned Paid Leave law says people who work for companies that have more than 10 employees will earn an hour of paid leave for every 40 hours they work, accruing up to 40 hours per year. Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People's Alliance, said the need for paid time off is particularly acute during the pandemic, but it's always been a huge issue.

"When they get sick or injured or are caring for a loved one, many people, they don't have a single paid day off, or even an hour they can take and help care for a loved one or a child," Tipping said.

The law is unusual in that workers don't have to be sick to take the time off, in fact, they don't have to justify it at all. Opponents have said requiring paid leave puts a burden on businesses at a time when the economy already has taken a big hit during the pandemic shutdowns.

The bill does not apply to workers who are part of a collective-bargaining agreement.

Any unused leave can be carried over for one year. Tipping called it a big step for workers - especially low-wage workers. But he said he'd like to see lawmakers set up a system, funded by paycheck deductions, that covers long-term paid leave for extended illness or the birth of a child.

"We need earned paid family and medical leave," he said. "You know, there are a lot of situations that paid time off alone or paid sick days isn't going to cover. So we hope the Legislature will address that this coming year. "

Former House Speaker Sara Gideon introduced a paid family and medical leave bill last session, but it died when the Legislature adjourned early due to COVID-19. Nine states plus Washington D.C. have laws requiring paid family and medical leave.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ME