New Jersey is poised to become only the third state in the nation to offer paid family leave. If it becomes law, the bill approved on Feb. 28 by the Labor Committee of the General Assembly would affect employers statewide. The Labor Committee of the General Assembly voted 6-2 to move Bill A-873, sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Gloucester), towards consideration by the full Assembly by referring it to the Appropriations Committee.

The push for paid leave

Although the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act provide for unpaid leave to care for children or other family members, advocates in a number of states have pressed for paid family leave. New Jersey may join California, which enacted a law in 2004 allowing workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave, and Washington, which recently passed a law providing for up to five weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child to become effective in October 2009.

Several similar measures have been introduced in New Jersey over the course of the past decade. Business organizations have opposed this and prior bills providing for paid family leave, arguing that requiring paid leave would harm New Jersey businesses. Critics of the bill see it as an incentive for workers to stay home from work that will make it more difficult for New Jersey businesses—particularly small businesses—to survive. The South Jersey Chamber of Commerce and other groups argue that the proposed paid leave measure would worsen an already unfriendly business climate in the state. Instead, they say, paid leave should be determined by employers, who know the needs of their workforce best, or through collective bargaining.

Requirements of the proposed law

The proposed legislation would allow workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a sick child, spouse, domestic partner or other family member, or to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. The bill provides for paid leave by expanding New Jersey's Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program. The bill's requirements would apply to any public or private employer subject to New Jersey’s unemployment compensation law.

Legislative officials estimate that the proposed New Jersey law would cost workers $33 per year through a payroll deduction. Workers who take paid leave would receive two-thirds of their salary, up to a maximum of $502 per week. State Labor Commissioner David Socolow, who along with Gov. Corzine supports the bill, estimates that 38,000 New Jersey workers would take paid leave each year.

Follow this link to a copy of the proposed paid family leave bill. If you are a business owner wondering how paid family leave could affect your organization, call Ballard Spahr. Our Labor, Employment and Immigration lawyers can help and will also apprise you of further developments as this bill makes its way through the legislative process.

Copyright © 2008 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
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