Minnesota lawmakers seek pandemic-related paid leave for healthcare workers

State lawmakers in Minnesota said they would introduce legislation Oct. 12 to ensure paid time off for healthcare workers who need to test and quarantine for COVID-19, according to a union and the Star Tribune.

"People who are working to protect us and provide healthcare have no choice but to be exposed. [They] shouldn't also have the financial exposure of missing work," Mr. Winkler said, according to the Star Tribune. "They need their income just like everybody else does."

The bill, authored by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Sen. Kari Dziedzic, would provide emergency paid leave for COVID-19 testing and quarantine to healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which supports the proposal, said the bill would provide 100 hours of emergency paid leave to workers considered full time by their employer. Nurses who have been told to quarantine or show symptoms while waiting for test results, but later test negative would receive the leave, the union said. The leave would also cover healthcare workers caring for an infected family member or for the purpose of child care if the loved one's school is closed.

The proposal comes as some Minnesota healthcare workers report that it is more difficult for them to get paid for time off if they feel potential COVID-19 symptoms or have risky exposures, according to the Star Tribune

The Minnesota Nurses Association said nurses have reported having to deplete their own sick time balance while waiting long periods for a COVID-19 test result or because a family member tested positive, which forced them to quarantine. 

Minnesota Hospital Association spokesperson Wendy Burt confirmed to Becker's that hospitals are prioritizing testing for workers and saidt testing turnaround times vary depending on the lab being used.

Policies also vary by organization. For example, at Minneapolis-based Allina Health, workers are offered 14 days of paid leave if they test positive for the coronavirus, and at Minneapolis-based M Health Fairview, workers are paid for all shifts missed if they are exposed to COVID-19 at work, according to the Star Tribune.

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