A proposal for a citywide sick-leave ordinance headed to the Minneapolis City Council next week is likely to cover all businesses with at least four employees in Minneapolis.

The plan is still being finalized by the Workplace Regulations Partnership Group, a 19-member panel of business owners, workers and labor and business group representatives who have been working on the issue since December.

But after weeks of debate and discussion — and 14 public listening sessions — most of the key points of the policy unveiled Wednesday are likely to end up on the final version.

The ordinance would require employers to provide paid sick leave to workers who work at least 80 hours in the city annually. Workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year.

Unused time could be carried over from year to year, though workers wouldn’t be able to “bank” more than 80 hours of leave at any time.

The leave could be used by employees when they are ill, or while they care for a sick family member. It would also cover “safety leave,” to be used to deal with domestic abuse, stalking or other personal safety concerns.

The draft policy recommends that businesses with 24 or fewer employees get an additional six months to implement the policy after it formally goes into effect for larger businesses.

The Partnership Group’s 15 voting members — the other four are alternates — will finalize the proposal Monday, before bringing it to the council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday. Council members will then get a chance to tweak the proposal before bringing an ordinance up for a vote.

Controversial proposal

Sick leave has been on the council’s agenda for nearly a year, since Mayor Betsy Hodges announced her plans to pass a slate of workplace reforms on sick leave, scheduling and wage theft she called the Working Families Agenda. The ideas attracted the support of some council members, but backlash from businesses prompted the mayor and council to table the scheduling proposal and slow its work on sick leave.

Supporters of a sick-leave mandate have pointed to statistics showing that high numbers of low-wage workers — particularly women and people of color — lack access to paid leave and often face tough choices between coming to work sick or losing their job. They’ve said implementing a citywide policy could provide more stability to those workers and cut into racial equity gaps in income, education and other measures.

Critics, including many business owners, questioned the city’s role in implementing workplace policies and warned that a new ordinance could be financially damaging to small businesses and make Minneapolis a less competitive place to do business.

Those fears will likely keep the Partnership Group’s vote on its proposal from being unanimous. Steve Cramer, president of the Downtown Council, told the group Wednesday that many business owners won’t agree with the recommendations and would prefer a voluntary system with sick-leave guidelines provided by the city. He plans to write a dissenting opinion to submit with the report.

“That’s primarily because of the concern about Minneapolis, on its own, doing something like this,” he said. “It’s so hard to get around all the technical [questions] and challenges that are associated with it.”

The group’s proposal would allow employers with sick-leave or paid time off policies already in place to retain those policies, so long as they met the city’s approved standards. If Minneapolis passes an ordinance, it would join 22 U.S. cities, five states and one county that have mandated sick leave.