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Why I’m for Minnesota-backed paid family leave (and every business that wants to be around in 15 years should be, too)

photo of article author
Nancy Lyons
My business partners and I started Clockwork, a Minneapolis-based experience design and technology agency, 17 years ago in our basements. We had a very intentional goal: to create the jobs — and the workplace — we always wanted. A work culture that proved the treatment of people mattered in business. In those very early days, we made a commitment to put people first. That was, and continues to be, our business strategy.

My employees know I care about them. I tell them all the time, but actions speak louder than words. We have worked hard to attract and retain talent in a tight market since the very early days of our business. All while being surrounded by much larger companies with the financial ability to do more and offer more to employees. We bootstrapped our business, and continue to be entirely independent 17 years in. We have always offered some amount of medical leave, but it’s lean compared to large companies. Still, we do our best.

I’m a business owner who offers benefits to cover some of what Minnesota’s paid family and medical leave legislation would offer, and I’m still for it. Why? Because Rep. Laurie  Halverson’s HF 5 bill would allow us to think more creatively about how we extend leave benefits to our staff. And because, while we invest as heavily as we can in our benefits package, we still can’t compete with large companies and their rich benefits. With help, like this legislation, we could improve our pool of benefits. For example, we could offer 12 weeks of parental leave and top off those salaries so that families aren’t penalized at all when life happens.

Competing for talent

While I can never be General Mills, Target, or 3M, I do have to compete with them. Arguably, every employer in Minnesota is competing with them for talent in some way. The benefits they offer are what every person in the state wants. I hear it from employees all the time.

It’s vital that businesses of all types and sizes keep up with what the workforce is demanding. Employees are demanding a work-life balance. But more than balance, they are asking for some amount of respect and awareness of their lives.

When businesses do this, the businesses benefit. People who get what they need from their employers give more back to the company. My company and I are living proof of that. And it hasn’t been easy. No one is giving my company a tax break simply for being in Minnesota, or for extending this benefit to employees. And yet I employ 60 people and I care for them. And their families.

Our workforce as a whole will be stronger with this legislation in place. We’re all afraid that we won’t be able to take care of our families if something happens. And that fear erodes our workforce and our capacity.

A safety net in an unpredictable world

Our lives are messy and hard; the proposed legislation would allow business owners and employees to plan — just a little — for that messiness. It would create a financial and psychological safety net in a world that we all know can be unpredictable.

If our government doesn’t step in and help the small- and medium-sized businesses, even companies like mine — that manage to offer some paid leave — won’t be able to compete for talent in the marketplace. I get that there is a hard cost involved, but there is also an opportunity cost we shouldn’t underestimate.

As a woman, and a mom, and a business owner, my life boils down to two priorities: my family and my company. I would hate to have to choose between the two. I know I’m not alone. A benefit like this would mean my people don’t have to choose. And I can’t think of a better thing to offer my staff than peace of mind.

Nancy Lyons is a co-owner and CEO of Clockwork and a member of Main Street Alliance, a national network of small businesses.


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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/11/2019 - 09:42 am.

    Lot of problems with this.

    Subd. 19. new text end new text begin Family member. new text end new text begin “Family member” means an employee’s child, adult child,
    spouse, sibling, parent, foster parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, domestic partner, stepparent, or any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    [Italics mine]

    If you don’t see the problem with that definition, you haven’t been paying attention to what the left has done to the concept of “family”. In the current year, and under the definition stated above, nearly anyone could be a family member.


    “Subd. 4. new text end new text begin Account creation; appropriation. new text end new text begin The family and medical benefit insurance
    account is created in the special revenue fund in the state treasury. Money in this account is appropriated to the commissioner to pay benefits under and to administer this chapter.”

    The bill doesn’t say how much money will be appropriated, but we know it’s a bundle. And the money employers will be forced to pay into the state’s new “insurance” plan will surely come out of the employee’s wages, directly or indirectly. It will have the same effect mandated minimum wages have had; less jobs, lower wages.

    Finally, the author proudly declares: “We bootstrapped our business, and continue to be entirely independent 17 years in.”

    Congratulations on your success. Why you would want to take the state on as a partner after 17 years is beyond me.

    The Governor of New York has been crying about the businesses and successful people fleeing his state for more lightly regulated states in the South. Regulations like this are a prefect example of why that happens.

    • Submitted by David Lundeen on 03/11/2019 - 02:01 pm.

      Let those corporations go to the South. The most successful ones know they need to compete for the best talent and the best talent is overwhelmingly in the cities. No one is flocking to Kansas due to Brownback’s tax policies. The expenses incurred for to relocation are hardly worth it if the city/state where they relocate doesn’t have an educated work force or ammenities. CEO’s actually think about stuff like that.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 03/11/2019 - 10:18 am.

    So you want me to pay for your employees to have family time?

  3. Submitted by David Lundeen on 03/11/2019 - 01:57 pm.

    Oh please, we live in a society where it’s socialism for the rich. Look at our tax policies if you been to differ. It’s time working people have actual policies implemented in order to help them. Every mother should automatically receive one year off after having a child. If we really cared about family values and well-being, (Republicans used to love this line) we’d have much more generous policies like the one espoused here. The benefits would easily outweigh the costs.

  4. Submitted by Mark Voorhees on 03/11/2019 - 02:06 pm.

    I don’t know if I’m for family leave because I just don’t enough about it. But I’m wholeheartedly for paid maternity leave.

  5. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/11/2019 - 10:18 pm.

    “The benefits they offer are what every person in the state wants.”

    Except me.

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