Governor Corzine will sign the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act into law this Friday, May 2, 2008. The law will permit New Jersey employees to take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for newborns or seriously ill immediate family members. The program is funded by salary deductions of approximately 75 cents a week, or $35 per year, from each New Jersey employee. The benefits are similar to the current temporary disability benefits afforded by the State, in that the employee will receive two-thirds of their regular pay, up to a cap of $524 per week, while they are on leave. The payroll deductions will begin on January 1, 2009 and the program will go into effect on July 1, 2009.
While there has been an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the bill from the State’s business lobby, the law contains many compromises to appease them. For instance, employers have the option of requiring the workers to first take two weeks of vacation or sick time before using their paid family leave. Also, employers with less than 50 employees do not have to keep an employee’s job open while he or she is on paid family leave. In other words, an employee can be fired from a small company while they are on paid family leave.
As stated by Rep. Stephen Sweeney, the bill’s chief sponsor, “[t]his paid family-leave program is hardly a cure-all, but it’s a way to help families deal with unforeseen and in many cases, unaffordable, uncertainties.” I heartily agree. It’s a bill which costs nothing to the employers in this State, and, at the same time, provides necessary relief to working families when they need it most.