The concept of paying employees while on family leave is a popular conversation topic across the US right now. In fact, the state of New Jersey is one of the few to have laws on the books with regards to paid family leave.
Recently, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy signed bill A-3975 into law. It takes aim at expanding NJ’s family leave act to apply to more workers. Moreover, the legislation amends details concerning temporary and family disability leave as well as domestic and sexual violence.
What is NJ’s Family Leave Act?
A-3975 affects regulations set forth by both NJ’s Family Leave Act (FLA) in addition to Family Leave Insurance (FLI) laws. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial. The FLA prevents certain employers from retaliating against their employees when they take family leave. However, the FLA does not guarantee any monetary award.
On the other hand, NJ’s FLI laws exclusively grant suitable employees the right to monetary benefits. As of 2015, less than one percent of eligible workers participated in the program, according to NJ Time to Care. In other words, unless your employer is subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the FLA, your job is not necessarily safe in the event of family leave.
What’s New in the Bill?
More employers will soon be subject to NJ’s Family Leave Act. Starting on June 30th, 2019, companies with 30 or more worldwide employees must abide by the act’s provisions. That’s down from the threshold of 50 from previous years. In short, if your business has 30 or more workers on the payroll, you must provide them with 12 weeks of family leave in a 24-month period if they meet the following criteria:
- Worked for the covered employer for at least 12 months
- Logged at least 1,000 hours working for said employer during the previous 12 months
- Experienced the adoption, birth, or foster placement of a child; or
- Need to care for a family member with a serious health condition
Workers get a lengthier leave. Currently, the law mandates applicable employers give workers six weeks off for family leave. A-3975 effectively doubles that number to 12 weeks. Also, if workers don’t wish to use all their time at once, they choose to take 56 days off within 12 months. That’s up from 42 days.
Workers get more money. Before A-3975 comes into effect, the maximum weekly benefit employees can attain is roughly $650. However, under the new law, workers will receive 85 percent of their weekly wage, boosting the maximum amount to $860.
More family members are eligible. Before, only those with newborns or the need to take care of a sick immediate family member were entitled to payments. Now, employees who are responsible for caring for any blood relatives are eligible.
The law also applies to individuals that are the “equivalent” of family. Meaning, those with whom your relationship is strong and family-like.
Family members who care for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault may also utilize NJ’s Family Leave Act.