New Jersey now provides a more expansive family leave law for businesses with 30 or more employees. Read about the impact on paid and unpaid family leave.
As more and more states enact family leave laws, some are expanding existing statutes. New Jersey falls in the latter group. Applicable employers in New Jersey should already be complying with these changes, which began in June 2019.
The expansions vastly expands the:
- New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), which provides unpaid family leave benefits
- New Jersey Family Leave Insurance Law (NJFLI), which offers paid family leave insurance benefits
On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the expansions into law via a sweeping bill.
- The NJFLA took effect June 30, 2019.
- Most of the NJFLI changes started on July 1, 2020.
Among other things, the changes:
- Require more small employers in New Jersey to offer unpaid family leave
- Expand the definition of “family member”
- Double the number of weeks an employee can take for paid family leave
Expansions under the (unpaid) NJ Family Leave Act
The changes listed below went into effect June 30, 2019.
Reduces the employee threshold from 50 to 30
The NJFLA requires a covered employer to offer eligible employees unpaid job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks spread out over 24 months, Previously, the NJFLA applied only to businesses with 50 or more employees, the same requirement as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
However, the new NJFLA legislation extends to businesses with 30 or more employees.
Employers meeting the new 30-employee threshold must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period to each eligible employee.
Employers meeting the new 30-employee threshold must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 24-month period to each eligible employee. The 30-employee qualification includes all of the businesses’ employees, not just those working in New Jersey.
Importantly, the change means that New Jersey employers who do not have to comply with federal FMLA leave laws must follow the state’s family leave laws plus applicable local laws.
Expands the definition of “family member”
The new NJFLA law broadens the definitions for “family member,” “parent,” and “child.”
A “family member” includes:
- Domestic partner
- Civil union partner
- Parent-in-law, or parent of a covered individual, or any other individual related by blood to the employee
- Any other individual who has a close association that “is the equivalent of a family relationship with the employee.”
A “parent of a covered individual” includes:
- Biological parent
- Foster care parent
- Adoptive parent
- Step-parent of the covered individual
- A person who was a legal guardian of the covered individual when the covered individual was a child, or who became the parent of the child pursuant to a valid written agreement between the parent and a gestational carrier.
A child includes:
- Biological, adopted, or foster child
- Stepchild or legal ward of a covered individual
- Child of a domestic or civil union partner of the covered individual
- Resource family child
- Child who becomes the child of a parent pursuant to a valid written agreement between the parent and a gestational carrier.
Decreases the advance notice period for intermittent leave
The new NJFLA leave law reduces the advance notice period from 30 days to 15 days. This is the amount of notice an employee must give when requesting intermittent leave to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition.
What are expansions under the NJ paid family leave act?
Most of the expansions to the New Jersey paid family leave legislation went into effect July 1, 2020. These changes are listed next.
Doubles the number of weeks for paid family leave
Employees can take up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave during any 12-month period. Previously, they could take only up to 6 weeks of FLI in a 12-month period.
Increases the weekly amount for FLI benefits
Individuals can receive 85% of their weekly wage, with the maximum possible benefit going up to 70% of the statewide average weekly wage. The governor’s office said the maximum possible benefit will rise from $650 a week to $860 a week, based on 2019 data.
Raises intermittent leave from 42 days to 56 days
Employees can take up to 56 days of intermittent leave within a 12-month period, as opposed to the previous 42 days.
Expands individuals eligible for paid family leave
Under the new legislation, paid family leave now includes caring for:
- Blood relatives
- Any other individual who has the equivalent of a family relationship
For NJFLI purposes, the definition of “family member,” “child,” and “serious health condition” mirror those stated in the NJFLA.
Adds anti-discrimination and retaliation measures
The bill has an anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination component. Employers cannot harass, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against or retaliate against an employee because they exercised their family leave rights or received paid family leave benefits.
Covered employees have the right to sue under New Jersey family leave laws and can ask for a range of remedies, including:
- Monetary damages
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
- Injunctive relief
- Job reinstatement
The bill increases the wage limit for paid family leave payroll deductions
The NJFLI program is funded through a payroll deduction from employees’ paychecks. This amount pays for both temporary disability insurance and family leave insurance.
Previously, employees paid a flat percentage on the first $34,400 of wages. The bill expanded that amount to the first $131,000 of wages — this change took effect January 1, 2020.
The wage cap is subject to change annually. For 2022, the wage cap is the first $151,900.
Other changes for New Jersey employers
In recent years, New Jersey employers have seen several state-related changes in their workplace requirements, including paid sick leave and minimum wage.
Paid sick leave
In a move similar to the expansion of the family leave laws, New Jersey’s sick leave law went into effect in October 2018. It requires New Jersey employers of all sizes to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees so they can care for themselves or a family member.
Generally, an eligible employee accrues up to 40 hours of sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Or, the employer can advance employees earned sick leave at the beginning of the benefit year.
This state law preempts existing (NJ) municipal paid sick leave laws. There currently is no federal paid sick leave law.
Higher state minimum wage
Governor Murphy signed legislation on February 4, 2019 raising the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 an hour by 2024. According to NorthJersey.com, most of New Jersey’s low-wage workers would see the minimum wage rise from $8.85 an hour to $10 an hour on July 1, 2019. It will jump another $1 at the beginning of the following years, until reaching $15 an hour in 2024.
However, seasonal workers at businesses with 5 or fewer employees will see their wages increase on a slower timeline.
The governor’s office said the entry-level pay increase would raise wages for over 1 million New Jersey employees.
While the bill was under consideration, business owners argued the proposal did not carve out enough workers, and scoffed at its definition of a small business as employing fewer than 6 people.
According to 1 local survey, 66% of respondents said increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would impact their business and 39% projected the impact as “significant.” To offset those impacts, 32% said they would raise prices, 26% said they would reduce staff, 24% said they would reduce hours, and 13% said they would increase automation.
New Jersey is only 1 of a growing list of states that have adopted a $15 minimum wage.
Stay compliant with New Jersey employment laws
If New Jersey’s unpaid or paid family leave laws apply to your business, you should already be complying with the latest expansions.
- Reduce the employee threshold from 50 to 30
- Expand the definition of “family member”
- Decrease the advance notice period for intermittent leave
- Double the number of weeks for paid family leave
- Increase the weekly amount for FLI benefits
- Raise intermittent leave from 42 days to 56 days
- Expand individuals eligible for paid family leave
- Add anti-discrimination and retaliation measures
- Increase the wage limit for paid family leave payroll deductions
As a New Jersey employer, it’s important to stay on top of applicable employment law developments. In addition, make sure your human resources policies for family leave are properly developed and administered to ensure compliance with New Jersey law.
This article has been updated.