by Shelby Felton, Esq. - Director and Product Compliance Counsel
August 16, 2023
On July 11, 2023, Governor Mills signed the Maine PFML (ME PFML) program into law. Thirteen other states and D.C. have mandatory paid family and medical leave laws, all of which can be found on our Statutory Disability and Paid Family and Medical Leave Laws website.
When does it start?
Maine's PFML program starts with contributions on January 1, 2025, and benefits start on May 1, 2026. (That isn't a typo, the program doesn't start in January, or the start of a quarter, it starts on May 1.)
Where can I find more information?
The new PFML arrival is being administered by the Maine Department of Labor, Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Authority, and it has already delivered a website that can be found here.
What are the eligibility requirements and leave reasons covered?
When it starts, Maine PFML will allow employees who have earned at least six times the state average weekly wage to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave for their own serious health condition and up to 12 weeks of family leave, but the leave taken per leave year cannot exceed a combined total of 12 weeks.
Family leave in Maine will include time off and benefits for:
- bonding during the first 12 months after birth or placement of a child
- caring for a family member with a serious health condition
- attending to a qualifying military exigency
- caring for a family member who is a covered service member
- safe leave
- placement of a child 16 years old or less with the employee or the employee's domestic partner in connection with adoption by the employee or domestic partner
- organ donation
- the death/serious health condition of the employee's spouse/domestic partner, parent, sibling or child while on active duty in the state military forces or United States armed forces, including the Air National Guard.
How is family member defined?
Like many of its brother and sister PFML states, Maine's definition of "family member" goes beyond the usual blood relationships to include, "an individual, as designated by the covered individual in accordance with rule, with whom the covered individual has a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship, regardless of biological or legal relationship."
How much leave can employees take?
Employees can take 12 weeks of paid medical/family leave in a benefit year. Intermittent leave may be taken in increments of not less than eight hours or on an agreed reduced schedule.
What paid benefits will I receive?
Covered employees will receive the following paid benefits:
- the portion of the employee's average weekly wage that is equal to or less than 50% of the state average weekly wage must be replaced at a rate of 90%; and
- the portion of the employee's average weekly wage that is more than 50% of the state average weekly wage must be replaced at a rate of 66% up to the maximum weekly benefit.
The maximum benefit an employee can receive is the state's average weekly wage.
How will the benefits be funded?
Maine's program will be funded with employer/employee contributions at a rate that will not exceed 1.0% of wages. That rate will be set annually in October. At this time, a rate has not been announced for the start of the program. The contributions are split 50/50 between the employee and the employer, but the employer may choose to pay all or a portion of the employee contribution. Employers with fewer than 15 employees are not responsible for the employer contribution but may elect to pay all or a portion of the employee contribution.
Is there job and benefits protection?
Employees who have been employed 120 days are entitled to job restoration to the same or to an equivalent position when they return from PFML leave. During leave, employers must maintain employment-related health insurance as if the employee was not on leave. Taking PFML leave will not affect an employee's right to accrue vacation and sick time, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length of service credit, or other benefits, plans or programs.
Are private plans allowed?
The Maine program allows private plans that are self-funded or fully insured. A surety bond is required for self-funded plans. Both types of private plans must be offered to all employees and must meet or exceed employee rights, protections, and benefits provided under the state program. Employers with private plans and their employees are not required to make contributions to the state program. Private plan employers may require employees to contribute to the cost of a private plan, but can require no more than the state authorized amount. There is an administrative fee for private plans in an amount to be announced (like a new baby's name).
Let's all welcome the new bundle of joy to the ever-growing PFML family!