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Paid sick and family leave laws are continuing to spread

In most places in the United States, including Maine, employers do not have to provide paid leave to employees who need to take time off from work because they are sick, to care for a sick family member with, or to care for a newborn child.  The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and most state laws only require employers to provide unpaid leave.  But there is a growing trend in some states and cities to provide employees with paid sick and family leave. 

California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island already have state-run insurance programs, funded through employee payroll deductions, which provide insurance payments to employees who need to take family leave from work, such as leave to care for a sick family member.  New York State lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would create a similar insurance program.  An advantage to these programs is that employers do not have to pay for the entire cost of the paid family leave since employees contribute to the insurance program.    

Connecticut has a law that requires employers to provide certain employees with paid sick leave.  Some large cities, such as New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, have similar paid sick leave laws. While these laws have faced stiff criticism from some segments of the business community, the laws so far have not significantly impacted profits.  According to Bloomberg Business Week, “preliminary research shows the laws have little, if any, downside for profits.  And many small businesses say they don’t find complying with the laws a burden.  Many already gave employees paid sick time before the laws were passed.  And having paid sick time makes employees happy.”

Paid sick leave can have a positive effect on both employee morale and productivity.  If an employer does not provide paid sick leave, it encourages employees to come to work when they are sick and they, in turn, make their co-workers sick.  In many instances, an employee’s productivity decreases when he is sick and requiring employees to work while they are sick decreases morale.

Maine does not require employers to provide employees with paid sick or family leave.  However, Maine does have a law which requires employers who choose to provide employees with paid sick leave the option of using that leave to care for a sick family member.