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Parental Leave Debate Heats Up At The State House Amid Comprehensive Paid-Leave Discussions

A bill mandating employers to provide paid parental leave will get a public hearing Friday alongside House Speaker Sara Gideon's more comprehensive LD 1410, which would create a family and medical leave benefit program through the Department of Labor.

The parental leave bill, LD 1239, is sponsored by State Rep. Benjamin Collings of Portland. It requires all employers with up to 49 workers to provide two weeks paid-leave to women who give birth and one week for workers whose spouses or domestic partners have given birth.

A business of 50 employees would need to provide four and two weeks respectively.

Curtis Picard, president of the Retail Association of Maine, says employers are being swamped by such proposals. Even if the parental leave bill does not go as far as the family leave bill, he says it too would create more strain for businesses, especially coupled with other factors, such as a higher minimum wage.

"One individual bill might not look that bad, but when you start looking at the collective impact of a lot of these different proposals, it's really going to have a significant impact on doing business here in the state of Maine and really will be a cost-driver," Picard says.

Eliza Townsend of the Maine Women's Lobby says a quarter of American women return to work within 10 days of giving birth due to lost wages. She supports the idea of paid parental leave, but she says the two and four weeks offered in LD 1239 are not adequate.

"You know neither of those is quite enough,” says Townsend. “The recommended amount of time to stay home and heal after birth is at least six to eight weeks."

Townsend says that any effort to help working mothers and fathers is a step in the right direction, but she says she is hoping the legislature will adopt the provisions offered in the more comprehensive LD 1410.

Originally published April 18, 2019 at 12:50 p.m. ET.