ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Nearly all Minnesota workers would be entitled to paid sick leave under a plan moving through the Legislature that's aimed at the roughly one-third whose employers don't already give them time off when they're ill.

Employees would be guaranteed one hour of paid “earned sick and safe time” for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. Unused time up to 80 hours could be carried over into the next year. The proposal sets a floor, and nothing would change for workers who already have better benefits.

Workers could use the paid time off for physical or mental illness, treatment or preventive care, caring for a family member and absences related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. They could also use it when there are closures for weather or public emergencies or to quarantine to avoid spreading communicable diseases.

“The reality of life is that everyone gets sick at one point or another," the chief author, Democratic Rep. Liz Olson of Duluth, said at a news conference Thursday ahead of the bill's expected passage on the House floor.

More than 900,000 Minnesota workers don't currently get paid time off to care for themselves or loved ones, Olson said.

The Democratic-controlled House passed similar legislation in 2019, 2021 and 2022 but couldn't get it past the formerly Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats now control both chambers and the bill has already cleared three Senate committees on the way to an eventual floor vote there.

“It shouldn't be controversial to say, and to put into state law, that workers should be able to take paid time off if they or a family member get sick,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park, told reporters.

Workers would qualify after they've worked for their employer for at least 80 hours. Sole proprietors would not be covered. Employers, who would have to absorb the costs, could require documentation to justify the use of three or more consecutive days off. The requirements would apply to all employers, and they could be fined up to $10,000 for violations.

Business groups oppose the legislation, calling it an unfunded mandate for employers at a time when they're already stressed by workforce shortages, sales that in many cases have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, inflation, supply-chain challenges, and high tax and regulatory burdens.

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The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says that more than 80% of its 6,300 member businesses already offer some form of paid leave. The Minnesota branch of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents more than 10,000 small businesses in the state, says a company with 10 employees at an average hourly wage of $20 could face up to $9,600 in higher costs in the first year.

The proposal is very different from a more expansive bill advancing through the Legislature that would require up to 24 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Sick and safe time is aimed at short-term relief, while paid family and medical leave is designed for longer-term concerns and would be funded through a payroll tax. Olson said both approaches are needed.

Four Minnesota cities — Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Bloomington — and 16 other states already have some kind of paid sick time requirements, Olson said.

"In a very wealthy state, in the wealthiest country in the world, we can afford to provide paid safe and sick time for employees, Hortman said.

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