Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a new paid family and medical leave law this week. Maine is the 13th state overall to guarantee paid family and medical leave—along with the District of Columbia—and the second state to enact paid leave in 2023 following Minnesota’s law, signed earlier this year.
Here are the key facts about the legislation.
When does the program start?
Workers will be able to begin taking leave and receiving benefits on May 1, 2026 (subject to a potential short delay based on an actuarial study). Workers and employers will begin contributing to the program a year earlier, on January 1, 2025.
What will the law do?
Maine’s law will guarantee workers in the state the right to paid family and medical leave when they cannot work due to serious health or caregiving needs.
Who does the law cover?
The law will cover nearly all employees in Maine, including both private and public sector workers. State and local government employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement will be covered when their current agreement expires. It will cover employees regardless of employer size and include full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers. Self-employed people will be able to voluntarily opt in to coverage, as will Tribal governments.
What kinds of leave does the law provide?
Maine’s law will provide:
- Medical leave to address workers’ own serious health conditions, including pregnancy
- Caregiving leave to allow workers to care for a loved one with a serious health condition
- Parental leave to provide workers the time to bond with a new child
- Safe leave for certain needs when workers or their loved ones experience sexual or domestic violence
- Deployment-related leave to deal with the impact of a loved one’s military deployment
Who will be eligible for benefits?
To be eligible, workers will need to have earned at least six times the state average weekly wage in total over the base period—a designated year-long period prior to the start of leave. Based on the current state average weekly wage, workers would need to have earned about $6,622 in the base period to qualify.
Benefits are portable, meaning that income earned across all covered Maine employers in the base period counts toward the total. This means that someone who recently changed jobs could count income from their past job as well as their current job, while someone with two jobs could count income from both. In other words, workers keep their eligibility for the monetary benefits, even as they change employers, and could be eligible for monetary benefits as soon as they start with an employer if they were previously eligible.
How much time can workers take?
Workers can receive up to 12 weeks of leave per benefit year.
What family members can workers use leave to care for?
For the purposes of Maine’s law, a family member will include a worker’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent. The definition of family will also include a person designated by the worker “with whom the covered individual has a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship, regardless of biological or legal relationship.” This additional coverage ensures that workers can care for a chosen family member.
Will workers’ jobs be protected while they take leave?
As long as they have been employed by their employer for at least 120 days prior to their leave, employees will have the right to get their job, or an equivalent job, back following covered leave, regardless of the size of their employer or how many hours they work per week. Employees who receive health insurance through their employer will be entitled to keep their coverage while on leave. Employers are prohibited from interfering with employees’ rights or retaliating against employees for using those rights.
How much money will workers receive when they take leave?
Wage replacement rates—the percentage of their own income that workers receive while on leave—will be progressive. This means lower-income workers receive a higher percentage of their own income, with a sliding scale of lower percentages as workers earn more. Progressive wage replacement balances the need for lower-income workers to receive as high as possible a percentage of their own income while on leave with the need to keep program costs, which are ultimately borne at least in part by workers, affordable.
Workers will receive:
- 90 percent of the portion of their weekly wages that is less than or equal to 50 percent of the state average weekly wage, plus:
- 66 percent of the portion of their weekly wages that is more than 50 percent of the state average weekly wage.
Benefits will be capped at 100 percent of the state average weekly wage. For 2023, 50 percent of the state average weekly wage would equal $551.86 per week, and 100 percent would be $1,103.71 per week.
How will the state pay for the program?
The program will be funded with payroll contributions split evenly between employers and employees. While the initial contribution rate has not yet been set, it will be capped at a maximum of 1 percent of wages in total, meaning that employers and employees will each pay no more than 0.5 percent of wages. Contributions will be assessed on income up to the maximum income subject to contributions for Social Security. Employers with fewer than 15 employees will not pay the employer share of the contribution, which the fund will absorb; employees at small employers will pay the same amount as those at larger employers.
How will workers access benefits?
Like other state paid leave programs, Maine’s new law will create an insurance system. This means that, typically, when workers need benefits, they will apply to the state, which will process their claim and pay benefits out of the state insurance fund. Employers will not need to pay employees while they are on leave.
Employers can request special permission to provide benefits through a private plan. With an approved private plan, workers would be entitled to benefits like those under the state plan but would apply for and receive benefits from the private plan, such as a commercial insurance policy, rather than through the state. Private plans will be subject to strict rules and oversight.
Maine’s new paid leave law will offer critically needed protections to workers across the state, including nearly all of the state’s half a million private sector employees. This victory belongs to the Maine Paid Leave Coalition and its members who lead the fight; the current and former elected officials who championed this cause over the years; and to the Mainers and their families, who will benefit for years to come.