New Jersey’s paid family leave program will now be one of the most generous in the country following Gov. Phil Murphy’s signing of a long-anticipated measure which doubles the amount of paid leave and expands who counts as a caregiver.
Assembly Bill 3975, which Murphy approved Tuesday morning in Piscataway, applies to family leave insurance, which allows an employee to take off from work to spend time with a newborn or care for a sick family member, and temporary disability insurance, enabling leave for pregnancy and a series of different injuries and illnesses.
“No one should ever be forced to choose between caring for a family member and earning a paycheck,” Murphy said. “By providing the most expansive paid family leave time and benefits in the nation, we are ensuring that New Jerseyans no longer have to face such a decision and that working families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Beginning July next year, FLI would double from 6 to 12 weeks and intermittent leave, which is the care of a newborn, from 42 to 56 days.
Also starting next July, wages under both programs increase to 85 percent of a worker’s average weekly salary, capped at 70 percent the statewide average weekly wage, or $860.
Effectively immediately, the bill removes the one-week waiting period preceding FLI benefits, enacts anti-retaliatory measures, and expands eligibility to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law and the equivalent of a family member.
Victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as their family and caretakers, are now covered under the bill.
“Paid family leave is an economic and moral imperative that New Jersey’s working families need to survive and thrive,” reads a statement from Dena Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action, part of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, which backed the legislation.
“The changes adopted today make our program more open and accessible to many previously left behind,” Jaborska added. “With these changes, New Jersey has become a national leader on paid family leave and a model for our nation.”
Starting June 30, the bill requires businesses with at least 30 employees – down from 50 employees – to reserve a claimant’s job for when they return to work.
That aspect of the law has been a point of contention among business advocates, who argued employers will have to shell out more expenses in overtime to pick up the slack for the employee.
The measure also calls for $1.2 million for outreach and promotion of the TDI and FLI programs — an obstacle to utilization of both programs is that many residents were not aware they even existed.
According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, insurance claims paid out under the expanded program will increase from $277 million to $363 million a year once the expansion is fully implemented.
Funding for the program will come from payroll taxes, similar to taxes employees would pay for unemployment and disability insurance.
The OLS estimates that payroll tax collections would increase from $278 million to $365 million that same year.