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Paid-leave bill will benefit employees and small businesses alike

Parents being able to spend time with a newborn shouldn’t be thought of as a luxury.

When I started my small business, I learned very quickly that employing people can be a daunting task. You have to attract and retain employees, and provide the benefits they need and deserve. And if your only employee needs a few weeks off for a medical emergency, your business can suffer. That’s why I support the Minnesota Paid Family and Medical Leave Act of 2016, introduced by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia. A paid family leave insurance pool would mean that businesses like mine could pool our resources so nobody has to close up shop because our employees fall ill or want to welcome home a new family member.

Todd Mikkelson

My wife and I run our business with one employee. If he needed a few weeks off for a family or medical reason, our business would face huge challenges. He’d be difficult to replace, and we might not have the resources to pay him during the necessary and deserved time off.

This is the plight of many small businesses. When we find good employees, they quickly become almost as important to the business as the owners – we can’t afford to lose them. On the other hand, we don’t have the resources to manage our risks like bigger companies. Our employees are essential to our business, and they’re good people. But you realize that you may not be able to afford to treat your employees they way you feel they should be treated.

Creates insurance pool

That’s why the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (SF 2558/HF 2963) is vital. Through an affordable contribution to an insurance pool, it would allow businesses like mine to buy into a statewide solution and offer paid family and medical leave benefits that we couldn’t afford to provide on our own.

The price of the insurance pool for businesses is miniscule for such a valuable benefit. It’s like we can offer our employees a small Caribou coffee once a week or we can offer them paid family leave. Which would make our job offer more valuable to someone looking for a new job? We could compete for the best employees for our small business, while giving our employees access to a resource that will also help them thrive in their careers even if they face a medical emergency or decide to start a family.

Helps small business owners as well

Having paid family and medical leave insurance available would also help small business owners with families and responsibilities outside of the shop. Back 12 years ago, when my wife and I were trying to get our small business off the ground, we had a new baby girl. Although we were struggling financially, we both recognized the benefit we had in being able to spend time with our new baby. I could be there to help my wife deal with the many sometimes nerve-racking tasks of being a new mother, and at least one of us could be there to be our little girl’s parent at all times – a luxury many working families do not have, and a luxury we never took for granted – nor do we believe it should be thought of as a luxury. Since small businesses are included in this program, the ability to take time away to care for a new baby or sick loved one would be that much more accessible.

As a business owner, a dad, and a community leader, I am proud to support this important piece of legislation and hope more business leaders join us in helping to pass policies like this one that will help thousands of Minnesota families.

Todd Mikkelson is the owner of “The RM Group” in Orono. Last week he testified in favor of the Paid Family Leave Bill in the Senate Jobs Committee.

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Comments (2)

Agreed

I like that there are responsible small business owners that see this as a benefit for both themselves and their employees. Small business owners and their employees are people, not machines, and people need a break sometimes without having to suffer for it.

We need a state-wide solution

We need a state-wide solution for paid family and medical leave, and this looks like a nice compromise proposal where a state insurance scheme, functioning like workers' comp, helps small businesses provide it. All of us together, helping. Very nice.

One of the complaints from business groups in Minneapolis about the city's initiative to provide paid sick leave has been that the city should not try to go it alone with such a progressive policy--wait for the state to make rules. Not that big businesses went to St. Paul's legislators to ASK for something statewide; they just complained that Minneapolis shouldn't be an island of progressive sick leave policy rules.

So, this kind of bill is good. I'm hoping the bi-partisan nature of the bill's support continues.