Last month we told you about the approaching effective date for the new Paid Family and Medical Leave law in Massachusetts. Since then, both Connecticut and Maine have signed interesting paid leave bills of their own and are gaining notice nationwide.
On June 25th, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave (CPFML) Act. Anyone who works in Connecticut for a company with more than one employee, and who isn’t a unionized public employee, will be eligible for paid leave under the new law. As with Massachusetts PFML, self-employed people and independent contractors will be able to opt into the program.
Maine’s New Paid Leave Law
Here in Maine, employees will be able to access some paid leave benefits soon, in accordance with “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave,” which Gov. Mills signed into law in May. That bill allows eligible employees to earn up to 40 hours per year of paid leave. In fact, employees can take leave for any reason, a detail that sets this bill apart from similar laws in other states. Many paid leave laws only cover leaves for employees attending to medical issues or to care for a relative. So under this law, Maine employees can take leave for appointments, to stay home with kids on a snow day, to have an appliance installed, or just to have a personal day.
Other regulations specify that any business with more than 10 employees 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 and can earn up to 40-hours paid leave each year. Paid leave begins to accrue at the start of employment, but employers can choose to require an employee work for 120 days before going on a leave. Employees will be glad to know that leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, and they are entitled to their typical and accrued benefits during that time. This paid leave law does not cover any employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement.
Employers may be relieved to learn that municipalities are not able to create their own provisions in relation to this law. In some states, municipalities can implement their own requirements, which leaves employers to juggle multiple sets of rules. This becomes particularly complicated for businesses with employees in more than one part of the state. In Maine, all employees will be governed by the same laws.
With the effective date of this law still a year and a half away, some parts of the law still appear vague. For example, the bill requires employees provide “reasonable notice” when they intend to take a leave. However, there is an exception in the event of emergency or illness, and no guidance indicating what is “reasonable.” However, the Maine Department of Labor is developing rules for implementation and enforcement of the new law, and employers can expect to receive more details and instructions on compliance between now and January 1, 2021.
Ultimately, the provisions in the bill are very much in line with similar laws in other states. The flexibility of this paid leave benefit is a boon to employees, but it doesn’t provide the substantial paid time off that is afforded by family and medical leave programs like Connecticut’s.
Maine employers don’t have to take any action on earned employee leave just yet, but we’ll have more information for you as the January 1, 2021, effective date comes closer. Contact the team at ARB with any questions.