Updated May 29, 2019

New law to make Maine first state with paid sick time that covers more than getting sick

The law, effective Jan. 1, 2021, will require businesses with 10 or more employees to give their workers as much 40 hours of paid time yearly for illness or family emergencies.

BY SCOTT THISTLESTAFF WRITER

 

AUGUSTA — Most of Maine’s workforce is guaranteed access to paid sick time under a bill Gov. Janet Mills signed into law Tuesday.

The law provides workers with companies that have 10 or more employees an hour of sick time for every 40 hours they work, up to a maximum of 40 hours of time off a year. The paid time could be used for an illness or family emergency.

“Like most Mainers, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had to take a day off from work to take care of a sick child, family member or had some type of emergency calling them away from work,” Mills said during ceremonial signing of the bill at the State House. “It’s not something people want to do, they value their jobs and in Maine people have a good work ethic and we are proud of that.”

When a worker becomes ill they should be able to take time off without suffering a loss of income, Mills said.

Exempted from the new law are seasonal businesses, those that hire workers for less than 120 days, or those with fewer than 10 workers. The law also requires a worker be employed with a business for at least 120 days before becoming eligible for paid sick time.

It’s not clear how many of the Mainers in workplaces with 10 or more employees already receive paid sick days. The most recent estimate, a study published in 2010 by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, concluded that 36 percent of the workforce lacked paid sick days.

Mills said the law would cover about 85 percent of Maine’s workforce while exempting more than 40,000 of the state’s 50,792 businesses.

Sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millet, D-Cape Elizabeth, the law will make Maine the 11th state to have a paid sick time requirement but the only one to allow the time to be used for something other than a personal illness. Maine’s law will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2021, giving employers time to prepare for the new requirements.

The law is the result of a compromise brokered by Mills and business leaders, including representatives of the Maine Chamber of Commerce, which first opposed the bill because it would have included businesses with as few as five employees.

Dana Connors, the chamber president, joined Mills at the bill signing on Tuesday with dozens of others, including co-sponsors of the bill. The new law comes in the wake of a 5-4 vote by the Portland City Council this month to reject a local ordinance requiring the city’s employers to provide paid sick time to workers.