Minnesota state workers to get parental leave, but it might not last
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota state employees now have paid parental leave, though it may not last long. Gov. Mark Dayton's office announced a plan Thursday to allow six weeks of paid parental leave for 32,000 state employees. But without legislative app...
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota state employees now have paid parental leave, though it may not last long.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s office announced a plan Thursday to allow six weeks of paid parental leave for 32,000 state employees. But without legislative approval in the upcoming session, the benefits could be erased quickly.
The move will amount to $2 million worth of benefits, but agencies already budget to pay their employees’ salaries in full, said Deputy Management and Budget Commissioner Eric Hallstrom, which means there isn’t the need to allocate any cash to pay for employee’s time off.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Hallstrom said. “We are looking forward to offering something that makes the state more competitive in a really tight labor market.”
The changes could quickly be undone by the newly elected Republican-controlled Legislature. Linden Zakula, Dayton’s deputy chief of staff, said the state Legislature must vote to approve the program for it to continue. The paid leave will end if lawmakers vote it down or just don’t act on it at all by May.
Hallstrom said the state came to an agreement with the employees’ bargaining units after conversations that date back to spring 2015.
The administration and the unions couldn’t find common ground to sign off on a deal back then, he said. Dayton created a working group to study the issue, and the group met again in July, which eventually spurred the policy’s approval and Thursday’s announcement.
Previously, employees were able to use vacation days, accrued sick leave or purchase short-term disability insurance, but that left newer employees and nonbirth parents with limited options.
The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul recently adopted paid family leave policies for their employees, and some private companies, such as the Mayo Clinic and Target, also offer the benefit.
“I became a new mom in 1987. … Two years later, we had another son. I was able to take time away from work for both babies,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith in a statement. “This is an important step, but we need to keep working so access to family and medical leave isn’t determined by the luck of where parents work.”