Sitting in front of me in an exam room, a pale, sweaty young man with diabetes had come to the office straight from work. He was unable to take the time he needed to care for himself when he was ill, resulting in dangerously low blood sugar.

As a family physician in Maine, I believe Mainers should not be forced to choose between keeping their jobs and taking care of themselves and their loved ones. Currently, one in six Mainers are caring for an adult loved one with serious health concerns. In 2021 alone there were 12,000 babies born in Maine, which means at least that many parents navigating life with a newborn. Unfortunately, by one estimate, 73% of working people in our state do not have paid leave.

While we all benefit from paid medical leave, this policy is critically important for Maine’s people of color, who are more likely to hold jobs in which paid leave is not currently an option. On top of that, Black and Hispanic workers have consistently less access to paid family leave than their white counterparts.

We can’t forget employers. Paid family and medical leave benefits employers who lose qualified employees because of family medical issues, especially employees who have recently given birth. Employee wellness means more than occasional office pizza parties; it means real support during difficult times. If we want Maine to be a place where people and families can thrive, paid family and medical leave is a critical step toward that dream.

Emily Follo

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