- Workers in Maine soon will be entitled to one hour of paid leave — to be used for any purpose — from a single employer for every 40 hours worked under a new law, L.D. 369, signed by Gov. Janet Mills Tuesday.
- The law applies only to employers in the state with more than 10 employees employed for more than 120 days in any calendar year, and accrued leave is capped annually at 40 hours. Employers aren’t required to permit a qualified worker to take the leave until the employee has been employed for 120 days.
- Additionally, the law isn't set to take effect until Jan. 1, 2021. Seasonal employment is exempt, as are employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Maine is perhaps the first state to mandate accrued paid leave for any purpose, but it's not alone in joining the paid leave trend. In 2018, Maryland passed a paid sick leave bill granting qualified employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, as well as unpaid, job-protected leave for workers at smaller organizations not covered by the law's paid leave component. Similar laws have been enacted in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Maine's decision will likely force employers in the state to adjust their leave policies, Steven Silver, associate at Ogletree Deakins, told HR Dive in an email. "This is a significant change for any employer, but it has a unique impact on employers operating in multiple states by creating different tiers of benefits depending on where an employee works," Silver said. "Employers now have to determine if they will provide paid leave in accordance with Maine's requirements to all of its employees in any locale or if Maine employees will enjoy a special bonus of sorts simply by working in Maine that colleagues in other states do not have."
With no federal law mandating paid time off, employers are left with a patchwork of varying laws. As a result, business advocates aren't necessarily against a federal law. The Society of Human Resource Management, for example, has backed the Workflex in the 21st Century Act to Congress, while legislators have put forth other proposals — Sen. Kristin Gillibrand's, D-NY, FAMILY Act among them.
But there's one key problem: Employers disagree on how to fund the proposals. Some are also worried about the effect that a blanket paid leave law might have on different types of workforces. Meanwhile, local paid leave laws may be subject to litigation and subsequently struck down by the courts, as was the case in Austin, Texas.
Silver thinks Maine's approach — mandating paid leave for any use — won't be a one-off case. "This is the next iteration of paid sick leave laws," he said. "It might take some time for other states to follow, but in the next five years it is a safe bet that Maine will not be alone in requiring private employers to offer earned paid leave — not just sick leave."
Employers who choose to offer paid leave outside of legal mandates also must consider the cultural components that influence a worker's decision to take leave. Sources recently told HR Dive that company leaders and direct managers have a stake in ensuring that employees feel they're able to take advantage of leave, be it for a life event or a simple vacation. And on the compliance end, employers need to ensure that paid time off policies don't conflict with their obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act.