Maine officials said Monday that they have finished writing the rules for the state’s first-in-the-nation mandatory paid leave law.

The law, signed by Gov. Janet Mills in May 2019, says that beginning in January employees of businesses with more than 10 workers can earn up to 40 hours of paid leave. Maine is the first state to require paid leave for use outside of illness.

Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The “vast majority” of Maine workers will be able to use the law to earn paid leave, the Maine Department of Labor said in a statement, “with some estimates totaling 85 percent.”

A bipartisan majority in the Legislature supported the measure, and it also was backed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. However, it was opposed by some small business owners. The National Federation of Independent Business used the state’s announcement Monday to renew its criticism of the law.

The federation said in a statement that the measure will add costs and reduce flexibility for its members, which it said is particularly harmful as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials, however, said the ongoing pandemic underscores the need for the law.

“The unprecedented crisis created by COVID-19 has made paid leave of crucial importance to Maine workers, many of whom have been forced to balance their family’s health and their economic security,” state Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said in a statement. “Maine is a national leader with this law, which will go far to help Maine workers today and will help support our workforce into the future.”

The law exempts seasonal industries and those that employ more than 10 workers for four months or less. Employees can earn an hour of paid leave for each 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours paid leave per year.

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