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Mainers Say Comprehensive Paid Family, Medical Leave Policy Needed

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Thursday, December 16, 2021   

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The commission tasked with finding the best way to establish a paid family and medical leave policy in Maine has until Feb. 1 to recommend legislation for next year's session.

It held a public hearing this week when Mainers shared their stories of what not having enough paid leave means for workers and their families.

Lori Clark, executive director of the Southern Maine Workers Center, said when her sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she used up all her sick and vacation time to care for her, and did not have enough time to grieve before going back to work.

"No one should have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a sick family member or a loved one or their own health condition," Clark contended. "Yet that is the situation many Maine workers find themselves in."

Maine's current paid leave law, which went into effect this year, requires businesses with more than 10 employees to allow workers to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, and are able to cap it at 40 hours, or five eight-hour work days.

Sarah Bigney McCabe from Skowhegan has a five-month-old son, and said her union negotiated 10 weeks of paid leave, but she added it was not enough.

She pointed out it is frustrating to know if she lived just 90 minutes north in Canada, she would be able to get a year of leave.

"I spent the first two weeks after he was born down at Maine Med dealing with complications, and when we got home, still had a difficult recovery," Bigney McCabe recounted. "My heart breaks and, honestly I get really angry when I think about moms who have even less time than me and are forced to go back to work after just a few weeks."

The Build Back Better bill passed by the U.S. House and now in the Senate would guarantee four weeks of paid leave for all workers who are new parents, facing serious medical conditions or caring for a loved one with a medical issue.

Some opponents say it puts a burden on employers, and others say four weeks is not enough.


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