Our Opinion: Paid leave mandates could cripple businesses

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A bill moving quickly through the Minnesota Legislature would require employers across the state to provide an expanded paid leave program for its employees with the mandates being paid for with new business taxes totaling $1 billion.

The proposal specifically would require employers to offer 24 weeks of paid leave or 44% of the workdays in a year — 12 weeks of paid parental and family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave. A separate proposal mandates that employers provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for routine or minor illnesses.

While this on the surface would be welcome for employees, it could be devastating on the state’s small businesses, which are already tackling tight budgets and trying to survive on minimal staff.

According to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, almost half of the state’s workforce works for small businesses, and paying an employee for a six-month leave could be crippling to those businesses.

While the employee is on leave, there would be reduced productivity. And what would happen if after taking the six months leave, the employee decides not to return?

During a time with a workforce shortage, a potential six-month leave could expand into much, much longer before a new employee is found.

On top of these detrimental effects, the paid leave insurance program would be administered through the state, creating another level of bureaucracy with at least 300 new government employees and a $50 million annual budget.

We hope the Legislature will keep small businesses in mind when discussing and voting on these proposals.

Small businesses are the backbone of Austin and the state, and we can’t afford to lose them.