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  • Quinn Malter

How should Maine structure Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Governor Mills and state legislators this session moved to establish a commission to develop a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Nine other states and the District of Columbia already provide such a program for their residents, but not every state approaches paid family and medical leave the same way. Read on to see what models the commission could use to design a program for the state of Maine:

Which states offer paid family and medical leave (PFML)?

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, either currently offer or are on track to offer PFML. Additionally, Hawaii offers paid medical leave in the form of temporary disability insurance.

Source: Investopedia

What percentage of wages/salary is covered under PFML?

This varies by state, though every state caps weekly rates annually based on either inflation or the state’s average weekly wage. Seven states offer a progressive system in which lower-income workers receive a higher percentage of their wages, between 70 and 100 percent. New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey cap their wage replacement rates for all workers, regardless of income.

How long does paid leave last?

The length of paid leave available varies by state, but everywhere but D.C. provides workers at least 12 weeks of paid time off if they become seriously sick. New York and New Jersey offer 26 weeks of paid medical leave, Rhode Island provides 30 weeks, and California provides up to 52 weeks. Depending on the state program, workers can also take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks off if they need to care for a family member, and some states also offer extensions for health complications in pregnancy or childbirth.

Source: Investopedia

What does PFML cover?

Paid family and medical leave gives workers the time to bond with a new child after birth or adoption/fostering, recover from one’s own serious health condition, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or spend time with family that are members of the military. In some states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Colorado, and Oregon), workers may also take “safe leave” to recover from domestic or sexual violence. Oregon’s safe leave law also includes sexual harassment and stalking.

Which states include job protection as part of their PFML programs?

Job protection refers to employees’ right to return to work after their leave is over. Of the nine states offering paid family and medical leave, only four (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Colorado) offer job protection for both family and medical leave. Rhode Island and New York only offer job protection with paid family leave, and California, New Jersey, Washington, and D.C. workers may only have job protection through federal legislation, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

How do these states pay for their PFML programs?

Every state funds its program through payroll taxes, usually split between employers and employees. The exceptions are D.C., which does not tax employees, and Rhode Island, which exclusively taxes employees.

We still have a while to wait before the legislature’s commission comes forward with its plan for paid family and medical leave, but the examples presented by states with paid family and medical leave plans in place gives Mainers a lot to consider. All things considered, the benefits of a paid family and medical leave program cannot be understated. Every single one of us has faced or will face a time when we need to take time off from work to care for ourselves or our loved ones, but many Mainers can’t take that needed time without losing their paycheck or even their job.

We don’t know yet what recommendations the legislature’s commission will make, but one thing is clear: Maine’s working families are counting on our lawmakers to pass a paid family and medical leave program.


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