MDOL Receives 300 Public Comments on Proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave Program Rules

The Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) announced Tuesday that 300 people submitted public comments on a proposed set of rules for the state’s newly created Paid Family and Medical Leave Program.

Last summer, Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a budget bill that, among other things, established the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program with an initial budget of $25 million.

Starting in spring 2026, Maine workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a sick family member or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

People who experience serious health problems and are unable to work for a longer period are also entitled to leave.

Click here for more information on the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

According to a press release issued Tuesday by MDOL, comments were submitted by both employers and employees from various sectors of the economy.

“We thank everyone who submitted public comments, whether online, in person or by mail,” said Luke Monahan, director of Paid Family and Medical Leave. “Your thoughts and feedback will help us continue to develop this new program in a way that works for Maine workers and businesses.”

MDOL explained that the Department will review each submission and may make changes to the proposed rule in response. The Department will then have the opportunity to issue an updated version of the rule for further public comment.

The department must adopt a final set of program rules by January 1, 2025.

(RELATED: MDOL Now Accepting Public Comments on Proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave Program Rules)

Under the budget bill approved in 2023, an employee’s weekly benefit amount under this program is to be calculated based on the average amount of their typical wage.

The employee contribution that companies must pay to fund this benefit is limited by law to 1 percent of their salary. Employers have the right to ask employees to contribute up to 50 percent of this cost.

Businesses with more than 15 employees must cover the remaining 50 percent of the contribution themselves, while smaller businesses are only required to transfer 50 percent of the contribution paid by their employees.

The Act also provides guidance on the application of the scheme to self-employed individuals, explaining that they can opt into the scheme and, if they choose to do so, will be required to pay the same 50 per cent contribution as small businesses.

The Act also specifies that upon return to work, the employee must be reinstated to the same position or a suitably equivalent position.

Click here to read the draft budget act for 2023

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce argued that the proposed regulations need major revision before they go into effect.

In a press release published on Monday, the Chamber made available the text of a letter it submitted to the Ministry during the public comment period.

“We appreciate the time and effort of the Department of Labor to implement this program under significant time pressure, and funding contributions will begin in less than six months,” they wrote. “At the same time, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce believes the regulations need to be changed to be consistent with the statute, and there are many areas in the proposed regulations that require clarification.”

“Specifically, the use of private plans for compliance, a major point of discussion throughout the legislative process and an integral part of other state plans, is being undermined by legislation that will create enormous financial hardship for businesses and workers alike within months,” the House continued.

“Furthermore, the hardship provision is inconsistent with the statute because it undermines the employer’s critical role in determining reasonable hardship,” they said. “These two provisions are foundational to the Maine PFML statute and must be changed in the regulations.”

Click here to read the full Chamber press release

The Chamber provided more detail regarding its concerns about the proposed regulations in testimony before MDOL during a public hearing in June.

MDOL has until early November to consider and act on public comments before publishing a final set of rules by January 1, 2025.

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