Family Leave Bill Gets Thumbs Up in NJ

April 9, 2008 ( - New Jersey's Senate has approved legislation that would make it the third state in the union allowing six weeks of paid leave to workers caring for a new child or seriously ill relative.

The legislation, passed by a 21-15 vote, would allow parents to take paid leave anytime during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. According to Business Insurance, employees also could take leave to care for an ill relative receiving in-patient care in a health-care facility or one under continuing supervision of a health-care provider.  According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Senator Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) failed in an effort to amend the bill from the Senate floor to exempt small businesses — defined as having fewer than 50 employees.  Additionally, Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex) broke with her party and voted against the bill because it forfeits the rights of employees of small businesses to sue if they lose their jobs while on paid leave.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association never relented in their opposition to the bill, A873.

Workers on family leave would get two-thirds of their salary, up to $524 per week, with an estimated average weekly benefit of $415. Funding would come from a payroll deduction that amounts to $33 per year for each employee.   However, employees would first have to exhaust their maternity and disability leaves – as well as at least two weeks of sick leave and vacation time – before they can take the paid family leave. Employers must be given prior notice and provided all the necessary documents.

Payroll deductions are slated to begin January 1, 2009, while benefits would be available after July 1, 2009, according to the bill.

Other States

Governor Jon Corzine is expected to sign the bill, which would make the Garden State the third state with a paid family leave law. California passed a similar measure in 2002, with that law going into effect in 2004, while Washington state last year approved a bill that, once it takes effect, will give employees up to five weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.  

Last month, the District of Columbia City Council has put its stamp of approval on a bill that would require employers to furnish paid sick leave to employees.   The Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act would mean that full-time employees at businesses with 100 or more workers will get seven days of paid leave, and employees at businesses with 24 or fewer workers will get three days (see  D.C. Lawmakers OK Paid Sick Leave Measure ).