Explainer: Minnesota's new paid family and medical leave program

The program will be rolled out in 2026

People hold signs in the capitol rotunda
Supporters of the paid family leave bill rally at the State Capitol in St. Paul on May 8.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Minnesotans — regardless of where they work — will soon be covered under a new family and medical leave program that was signed into law this session. It’s a law that’s been years in the making and is scheduled to be rolled out in January 2026.

Deputy Commissioner Evan Rowe of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development spoke with All Things Considered host Tom Crann about the program.

For the full conversation, click play on the audio player above or read the transcript below. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Who exactly will be covered by this?

Most Minnesota workers will be covered under the paid family and medical leave programs. There’s an income eligibility threshold that equates to about $4,000 a year of work.

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Will that include part-time workers, seasonal workers and temporary workers?


What about citizenship requirements?

There’s nothing written in the bill that says citizenship required.

For what and for how long will people be able to take leave?

There’s two basic types of leave in the program. There’s family leave, which is for the purposes of caring for a loved one or somebody close to you, and parental leave, which is for care of a newborn.

There’s also medical leave, which is for an individual’s own medical condition. You’ll need to have documentation from a physician that the leave is necessary, and that it's part of one's care.

[For] each program, you can take 12 weeks of leave. There’s a maximum combined total of 20 weeks under the program.

When the employee actually takes the leave, are they paid what they normally would be paid?

The state program has a sliding scale for how much money you get paid as part of the program and it’s based on your income.

If you make less than half of the state average wage, you’ll get 90 percent of your pay as a benefit. That decreases as you go up and the maximum weekly benefit pay is the state’s average weekly wage, which this year is about $1,350 per week.

Now, an employer can still choose to offer benefits that exceeds that program. Some employers have benefit programs where they pay all of somebody’s salary for a period of 12 weeks.

Who will pay for this?

The initial program is funded out of the state surplus. Once the program is up and running, employers will pay a premium to the state to pay for it.

An employer can charge up to half the premium to an employee, but they aren’t obligated to and employees shouldn’t notice anything different in their paychecks. You won’t have to call in or submit payments or anything like that. It’ll be handled as part of an employer’s normal payroll process.

Some small business owners expressed concern with this program, specifically the payroll tax hike on small businesses and there are worries about staffing when people do take leave. How does the state plan to actually meet those or ease those worries from small business?

There’s two pieces in the bill that I’ll talk about. One is there’s premium relief written into the bill for businesses with fewer than 30 employees. So, they would see a reduction in the total premium that they would pay under the program.

Additionally, there’s a grant program established as part of the legislation to help small businesses pay for temporary workers.

I think the other piece is we want to run a program that’s going to be really easy for businesses and for applicants to use and provide really good customer service.

For employees to take advantage of this, how is that going to work?

Over the next couple of years, we’ll be building out the systems to allow people to apply to the program. Really what we’re aiming to do is to implement a system that will be really simple and straightforward for folks to use.