By: John McAvoy
On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, New Jersey made sweeping changes to its paid family leave law.
The new bill (S2528 / A3975) effectively doubles the amount of time a worker can take off annually to care for loved ones in need or to bond with newborn or adopted children from six weeks to 12 weeks, making it feasible for thousands of state residents to take advantage of the program.
In addition to doubling the number of consecutive weeks of paid Family Leave Insurance (FLI) or Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) employees may take in a 12-month period, the bill expands New Jersey’s paid family leave law by:
Increasing the weekly benefit. Under the new law, participants may now receive 85 percent of their weekly wage, with the maximum possible benefit increasing from $650 per week, which is 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, to $860 per week.
Providing up to 14 additional days of intermittent leave. The new bill allows workers to take up to 56 days of intermittent leave in a 12-month period. Currently, employers are only eligible to take 42 days of intermittent leave in a given 12-month period.
Tightening the law’s anti-retaliation provisions. As revised, the bill precludes employers with over 30 employees from retaliating or discriminating against an employee because used family leave.
Expanding family leave eligibility. The newly signed bill expands the scope of paid family leave eligibility to include the care of siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, other blood relatives, and any other individuals who can be shown to have the equivalent of a family relationship.
Including leave for matter arising out of or relating to domestic and/or sexual violence. The bill explicitly allows state residents to take family temporary disability leave to seek medical attention, counseling, legal assistance and/or to attend proceedings arising out of or in connection with domestic or sexual violence. Under this provision of the new bill, an employee may take family leave if they themselves were the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or if they need time off to care for a family member who was the victim of such violence.
Governor Phil Murphy’s signing of the bill, which will take effect on July 1, 2020, underscores the growing national movement and political momentum around paid family leave. New Jersey was only the second state in the country with a paid family leave program when former Governor Jon Corzine signed the legislation in 2008. In the 11 years since New Jersey enacted its program 6 states and the District of Columbia have adopted paid family leave programs and an additional 4 to 5 states have legislation pending that could become law between now and 2021.
The federal government is considering similar legislation. Last week, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) proposed a national paid family leave program under the Family Act in both houses of Congress, and some political pundits have earmarked paid family leave will be a hot topic issue in the 2020 presidential election.
Want to learn more about what New Jersey’s new paid family leave law means for you or your business? Let Ward Law, LLC’s employment experts help. Please feel free to call or email John McAvoy.