The countdown is over for workers, employers and city officials who have been hurriedly preparing for the Twin Cities’ paid sick time rules to take effect.

Saturday marks the start of the regulations, making Minneapolis and St. Paul the first cities in the state to require that businesses give employees paid time off. Employers must begin tracking how much time workers earn and allow them to use it when they or their family members are sick. The time off can also be used to deal with safety issues like domestic violence or stalking.

The laws will keep Minneapolis and St. Paul residents healthy and protect the health of anyone from surrounding communities who visits the city, said Velma Korbel, director of Minneapolis’ Department of Civil Rights.

The two cities’ regulations differ slightly. In Minneapolis, businesses with fewer than six workers don’t have to comply with the paid leave rule, though the small businesses must offer unpaid leave. Businesses of all sizes have to give paid leave in St. Paul, but the city has a two-tier phase-in that Minneapolis does not. Businesses with fewer than 24 employees do not have to make the change until Jan. 1, 2018.

The differences between the cities have caused some confusion for business owners like Pang Vang. Her St. Paul-based company, Rainbow Health Kare, employs workers throughout the state. She said her human resources staff has been “frantically talking” about the change.

“If any other city rolls out any other rules it makes quite a headache,” Vang said. “My payroll company is not liking me right now. They are frustrated beyond frustrated.”

Over the past week, staff at St. Paul’s Midway Chamber of Commerce have been calling businesses they know will be affected by the sick leave rule. Executive Director Chad Kulas said he heard a variety of concerns from business owners, including fears that they could face legal issues if they do not properly track time off.

Cities offer help

St. Paul staff have said they will focus on education as they roll out the ordinance, not on fining people who accidentally miscalculate hours. Minneapolis is offering a “year’s worth of grace,” Korbel said, where businesses can work through the kinks of implementing sick time without city enforcement.

“If people need help about how to do this, please call us. Because we’re not out to play gotcha with anybody,” Korbel said. If the city discovers issues with the regulations, she said, the rules can be tweaked.

“Nothing is carved in concrete, and we want these laws to work for people in the community,” Korbel said.

Minneapolis and St. Paul passed their regulations earlier this year and have since faced legal and legislative challenges. For months, uncertainty hung over workers and business owners as state lawmakers attempted to pre-empt the municipal labor rules.

They were unsuccessful, but Korbel said many people didn’t start calling Minneapolis with sick leave questions until after Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the legislative attempt to block the rules.

The Minnesota Chamber of  Commerce also tried to halt the sick leave legislation and sued Minneapolis last year. A Hennepin County judge considered the suit and determined the city could move forward with the bulk of its rule. The chamber has filed an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.