All Minnesota workers would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave under a proposal unveiled Monday by a new coalition, Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave.
The statewide coalition of working families, faith communities, labor and nonprofit organizations is backing the 2016 Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, legislation creating an insurance program to provide all Minnesota workers with a portion of their pay for up to 12 weeks for pregnancy and medical issues and 12 weeks for bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously-ill family member.
“Everyone has a story. When my daughters Clara and Alice were born, I needed to be there to care for each of them. Everyone needs paid family and medical leave,” said ISAIAH Executive Director and coalition Co-chair Doran Schrantz. “Minnesotans should be able to work and care for themselves and their families. Paid family and medical leave would let them do both.”
Authors of the plan are state Senator Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia. They described the legislation and said the full text of the bill will be available later this week.
“Minnesota needs a comprehensive, statewide paid family and medical leave program so new parents don’t feel conflicted about taking time away from work to bond with their new family member,” said Sieben. “Likewise, a leave program will allow family members to care for ill relatives or their own serious medical issues.”
Currently, 87 percent of Minnesotans lack access to paid family and medical leave. Some are covered by the federal Family & Medical Leave Act, which provides for unpaid leave.
The coalition said it’s time for the state to provide access to paid leave. Under the plan, every employer and worker participating in the unemployment insurance system would contribute to a fund for the leave. The state would incur no costs except those involved in setting up and administering the fund.
Research from other states with paid family and medical leave programs has shown they benefit business by lowering turnover, boosting productivity and enhancing morale, the coalition said. Paid leave programs can also help to make small businesses more competitive and appealing to a new generation of employees looking for basic benefits to support their families.
“If he needed a few weeks off for a family or medical reason we could not afford to lose him,” said small business owner, Todd Mikkelson, about his company’s employee. “But we also could not afford to pay him for his time off.” Operating under an insurance model, the proposed program would help businesses provide benefits they couldn’t otherwise afford to offer on their own,he said.
The Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave coalition is co-chaired by Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, ISAIAH and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
The Minnesota Legislature meets in shortened session in 2016 to consider key issues such as infrastructure investment and transportation funding.