A New Jersey Democrat lawmaker on May 6 proposed a requirement for employers of any size to provide paid sick time for their staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 5674, is part of a statewide effort to help the New Jersey reach herd immunity against the pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s goals are to fully vaccinate 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June 30, and so far the state has fully vaccinated almost 3.3 million people who live, work or study here.
Those vaccination efforts, as well as control over the virus itself, are key steps to fully reopening the state and lifting COVID-19 business restrictions. Murphy on May 3 announced some of the most far-reaching reopening measures to date.
“We want to get New Jersey on the right track to a new normal and to do that we need to ensure that all New Jerseyans who want to receive the COVID-19 have access to it,” reads a May 6 statement from the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37th District. “That includes having the ability to take time off of work to receive their vaccination.”
Under the bill, employers would have to provide up to eight hours of paid sick leave – four hours for each dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or a single slot of four hours for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Employees would also be entitled to up to two days of paid sick leave in order to recover from the vaccine, one for each shot.
State law already requires five days of paid sick leave.
“Throughout the pandemic, essential workers have had to choose between their health and a paycheck. This bill eliminates that dynamic,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, who heads the New Jersey Work Environment Council.
Under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, businesses with less than 500 employees can obtain federal tax credits for providing paid sick leave for their workers to get the vaccine, capped at $17,110 for 14 weeks of paid leave for each employee.
That’s also meant to cover the costs of letting the employee take time off for a doctor’s visit following COVID-19 symptoms, or for a COVID-19 test, to self-quarantine, or care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed due to COVID-19, according to the White House.
Tom Bracken, who heads the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said generally “we are never in favor of mandates that cost businesses money,” but that this could be a rare exception.
“Getting to herd immunity is so vitally important to the state and so vitally important to getting our economy back on track and allowing for a full recovery,” he said. “From a business standpoint, I think this is a very easy give-up.”
Following an announcement by Murphy on May 3, the state is rolling back swathes of COVID-19 business restrictions put in place over a year ago to halt the spread of the virus. They go into effect starting May 7 through May 19 and affect every single business in the state. Capacity restrictions will be loosened for indoor and outdoor gatherings, and at indoor restaurants, retail, gyms, salons, and other indoor establishments.
Murphy has called them the “most aggressive steps taken to reopen to date,” and has alluded to more reopenings if the COVID-19 pandemic is further controlled and if vaccination efforts continue to increase.e