The work group drawing up a citywide sick-leave policy for Minneapolis will take longer than expected to bring a recommendation to the City Council.
The 19-member Workplace Partnership Group has been meeting since December to weigh the city’s options for mandating that some or all employers offer their employees paid sick leave. The group had been scheduled to present its findings to the council Feb. 24.
But in their final scheduled meeting Wednesday, group members — who still are debating key elements of the proposal — said too much work remained to meet that deadline. Now, the panel will attempt to sort out the details in time for a council committee meeting March 16.
Sick leave has been on the city’s agenda since last spring, when Mayor Betsy Hodges pledged to tackle it as part of her Working Families Agenda. After a proposal released in the fall by Hodges and some council members prompted a wave of criticism from business owners, the sick-leave discussion was turned over to the appointed group of workers, business owners and representatives from labor and business groups.
After 14 listening sessions and seven business meetings, the Partnership Group has reached tentative agreements on a few key issues, including that a policy would cover all employers with employees in Minneapolis, even if those businesses are located outside of the city, and that employees would qualify for the benefit if they worked at least 80 hours per year in Minneapolis.
Members also have agreed tentatively that employees would accrue sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
But how those hours would be capped — or if some small businesses might be exempted, as they are in some other cities with sick-leave ordinances — has not been determined. The group also is beginning to wrestle with how a new policy might be enforced.
And Wednesday, the group again discussed whether the city should mandate a policy at all. Steve Cramer, Downtown Council president and CEO, suggested the city might set up a “partnership” approach, through which it would use the policy as more of a guideline than a requirement, or approve a less stringent requirement with guidelines for more comprehensive benefits.
Cramer repeated a concern he’d expressed in several of the group’s meetings: that the city needed to recognize that many businesses could make other cuts if forced to provide paid sick leave, and that it might not benefit workers to the extent advocates hope.
“If social policy oversells the potential benefits and undersells the potential impacts, I think as a country we’ve gotten ourselves in trouble thinking like that,” he said.
Several group members, however, said a mandate was necessary to ensure more businesses change their policies and help eliminate racial disparities.
“There has to be an ordinance; there has to be something put in place to address these disparities,” said Stephanie Gasca, an organizer with the workers’ group Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha. “Employers have had a very long time to offer benefits, to offer paid sick time to workers.”