Maine’s Paid Leave Law is One of a Kind

July 15, 2019

Maine employees can already take time off from work to take a pet to the vet, get a car serviced or spend all day watching bad movies in bed. Soon, they’ll be able to attend to those midweek tasks without losing any pay.

On May 28th of this year, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law L.D. 369, An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave. It takes effect on January 1, 2021, and it’s the first paid leave law of its kind.

Many of the provisions are on par with those laid out in other state paid leave laws. Any Maine business that employs more than 10 people for at least 120 days per year is required to let employees earn paid leave. Eligible employees earn one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, earning a maximum of 40 hours paid leave per year. Employees start accruing paid leave at the start of employment but employers can require them to work for 120 days before taking it. Leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, and the employer can’t withhold any owed benefits during the employee’s leave. Any employee who is covered by a collective bargaining agreement as of January 1, 2021 isn’t eligible for paid leave under this law.

One major provision sets this paid leave law apart from similar laws: Maine employees can take their earned paid leave for any reason. Other paid leave laws stipulate that employees can take leave only to attend to medical issues or care for close relatives, but Maine’s law has no such requirement. Theoretically, an employee could take leave if a snow day keeps the kids home from school with no child care, or because a furniture delivery is scheduled, or even for no specific reason at all.

There’s another aspect of the law that should come as a relief to the payroll and HR professionals who have to track and process paid leave for Maine employees. Municipalities aren’t allowed to create their own separate rules around this benefit. All eligible employees are covered by the same law, so employers only have to worry about complying with a single set of rules. That’s good news for businesses that have multiple locations and employees in different parts of the state.

Some elements of the law are still vague. For example, employees must give “reasonable notice” of their intention to take paid leave, except in cases of illnesses and emergencies, but there’s no guidance as to what’s considered reasonable.

As we’re still nearly one and a half years away from the effective date of the bill, Maine employers can expect to receive more guidance around compliance in the coming months. Commonwealth will keep you updated on everything you need to know to prepare for paid leave. If you have questions, contact us today.

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