Sick leave to help extended family members returns to the Senate

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Employees wishing to use their compensated sick leave days to take a family member — other than a child — to medical appointments would lawfully be able to do so under a bill passed by the House on Thursday.

Currently, employers who have 21 or more employees at a work location can provide sick leave for employees to care for a sick child. HF568/ SF840* would expand sick leave benefits if an employee is caring for an adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent or stepparent.

Bill sponsors are Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Bobby Jo Champion (DFL-Mpls). The Senate passed the bill 62-0 on April 15, including a provision that would make the employee benefit contingent upon the employer’s authorization. Members inserted the House language on April 25, which would not require an employer’s permission.

The House version also would postpone the effective date until July 1, 2015 for state employees who are subject to collective bargaining agreements so that any fiscal impact to the bill is removed for this biennium. The bill, which passed the House 100-31, now goes back to the Senate for comparison.

Hansen said some employees are able to use “flex time” in the workplace and this would give those still working under defined sick leave benefits the same flexibility to help a family member. The Wilder Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association, AARP and American Cancer Society support the bill, according to Hansen.

Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield) said the bill could cause employers to stop offering sick leave benefits. “I don’t think government should be injecting itself into it,” he said.

Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) said the bill would increase costs to local government and interfere with collective bargaining.