Minnesota Legislature Expands Employee Right To Use Sick Leave To Care For Family Members

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Minnesota employers who offer sick leave benefits take note:  employees can use benefits to care for sick family members. 

The Minnesota Sick or Injured Child Care Leave Act, Minn. Stat. § 181.9413, permits an employee to use personal sick leave benefits for absences due to the injury or illness of the employee's child.  Child is defined as "an individual under 18 years of age or an individual under age 20 who is still attending secondary school."  Minn. Stat. § 181.940.   A recent amendment to the statute, however, will allow an employee to use sick leave benefits to care for other family members as well. 

Effective August 1, 2013, employees may use personal sick leave benefits to provide care for a sick or injured minor or adult child (including a biological, adopted, foster, or stepchild), and also a spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent, on the same terms upon which the employee may use sick leave for him or herself.  An employer may limit the use of sick leave for an employee's adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent to no less than 160 hours in a 12-month period.  No limit may be placed on sick leave for a minor child.

Two notable limitations to the law exist.  First, the law does not require employers to provide sick leave benefits.  It merely states that employers offering sick leave benefits must extend the benefits to absences resulting from the illness or injury of an employee's family member.  And, second, the law applies only to employers with 21 or more employees. 

Employers who are subject to the amended statute are advised to update their employee handbooks and sick leave policies, and train managers and supervisors on the new law.