Minnesota Governor Walz signs paid family, medical leave bill into law

By | May 26, 2023

  • Minnesota Democratic Governor Tim Walz on Thursday signed a bill requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave into law.
  • Under the bill, workers would be entitled to up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave, with time off limited to 20 weeks if the two are combined.
  • “This is going to be a huge equalizer in addressing the deep and persistent inequities that exist in Minnesota,” noted the bill’s lead author, state Rep. Ruth Richardson. “This is going to ensure that people who have been left out of paid leave programs for the first time will have the opportunity to take care of themselves and not have to choose between a paycheck and their loved ones.”

Minnesota workers will be entitled to paid time off when they are seriously ill or to care for newborns and loved ones starting in 2026 under a bill Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed Thursday, making his state the 12th to require these benefits.

The paid family and medical leave program would give Minnesota workers up to 12 weeks off a year with partial pay to care for a newborn or a sick family member, and up to 12 weeks to recover from their own serious illness. Benefits will be limited to 20 weeks a year for employees who take advantage of both.

Business groups fought to block the proposal, warning it would impose huge costs and regulatory burdens on employers and exacerbate their staffing problems. But it was hailed by supporters who said it would bring equality and fairness to the workplace.


“Everyone deserves paid time away from work to heal, grow and live,” said Lt. Govt. Peggy Flanagan during the signing ceremony. “This time is not optional. It is not a nice-to-have. It is a must if we are truly going to be the best state in the country to raise a family.”

The program will work in the same way as unemployment insurance. It will be financed by a new 0.7% payroll tax on employers that will come into force in 2026. Employers can deduct half of the premium from their employees’ wages. The law includes protection against retaliation for employees who take time off. It also includes premium relief for smaller companies.

Paid family and medical leave will align with the state’s new earned sick and safe time program that goes into effect Jan. 1 to provide short-term relief. Employees will earn one hour of sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours a year, unless the employer agrees to more.

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Thursday that would require employers to provide up to 20 weeks of paid family and medical leave by 2026. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

Minnesota will become the 12th state plus the District of Columbia to have some form of paid family and medical leave program. Walz said the lawmakers, activists and administration who developed it have worked closely with those states to learn from their programs and how to improve them.

Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said Minnesota will end up with one of the strongest programs in the country.

A national paid leave program was part of President Joe Biden’s original “Build Back Better” agenda and passed the U.S. House but did not make it into law. Frye said her group hopes Minnesota’s adoption will increase momentum for the national program one day. But she acknowledged that it will be difficult with the current divided Congress.

“Like so many issues, what happens in the states affects whether Congress takes up issues across the board, and paid family and medical leave is no exception,” she said.


But John Reynolds, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Minnesota, called it a “deeply flawed proposal that will cost far more than expected and make it harder for small businesses to stay open.”

Doug Loon, president and CEO of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said the program could become the largest employer mandate in state history.

“This massive policy will bring fundamental changes to every employer and employee in the state — from $1.5 billion or more in annual payroll taxes, unwarranted changes in benefits, to state-approved furloughs for employees,” Loon said in a statement.

But supporters said Minnesota needs to consider the costs of not offering paid leave. They said programs elsewhere have reduced infant and maternal mortality, made it easier for mothers to return to work after giving birth and reduced reliance on social services.


“This is going to be a tremendous equalizer in addressing the deep and persistent disparities that exist in Minnesota,” said lead House author Rep. Ruth Richardson, D-Mendota Heights. “This is going to ensure that people who have been left out of paid leave programs for the first time will have the opportunity to take care of themselves and not have to choose between a paycheck and their loved ones.”

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