After years of debate, paid family leave in New Jersey is coming closer to reality despite fierce opposition from Republicans and the business community.  Under the Senate’s current schedule, the bill could be considered in May or June. New Jersey would become the third state in the country (joining California and Washington) to give employees the right to paid leave to care for a sick relative or a newborn, and Governor Corzine has said that he will sign the bill into law.  Using the structure of the current State Temporary Disability Benefits Law, the bill (A873) provides employees six weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their salaries, up to $524.00 a week.  It will be financed by employee payroll deductions that will cost the average New Jersey worker an estimated $0.50 to $1.00 per week.

The bill does not modify the State’s existing Family Leave Act, which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide employees 12 weeks of unpaid family leave every 24 months.  Under the bill, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to grant leave, that is, they are not required to hold an employee’s job open if an employee is absent from work to care for a sick relative or newborn.  Language has been added to the bill ostensibly to immunize smaller employers from liability if they do not rehire employees who take family leave.  The small employer business community, however, has raised concerns that the new language is inadequate.

If passed, the bill will take effect on January 1, 2009, and the payment of family leave benefits will commence on July 1, 2009.

Note: This article was published in the April 1, 2008 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.

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