TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and Senator Barbara Buono which would provide paid family leave benefits for workers caring for sick family members and newborn or newly adopted children received final legislative approval today from the full Senate by a vote of 21 to 15.
“I know this type of leave time is necessary, because I’ve been there myself,” said Majority Leader Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, in reference to the birth of his 14 year-old daughter, Lauren, who remained in intensive care for 75 days after she was born. “In my case, I had an understanding employer, but I can’t say the same for all of New Jersey’s workers. This bill would signify a new day for the State’s workforce, in that, the needs of families will be put before the needs of business owners. Parenting is the most important job that many of us will ever undertake, and this legislation would allow New Jersey to remain in the forefront of providing necessary benefits to its hard-working residents.”
The Senators’ bill, S-786, would authorize up to six weeks of employee-paid family leave (family temporary disability leave) during any 12 month period, during which an employee could take time off to care for an ill family member, or a newborn or recently adopted child. Employees would receive two-thirds of their weekly salary, up to $524 per week.
“As a mother of 4, I understand what it means to have to leave a new baby, and go back to work,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “This legislation would allow new parents to spend precious time bonding with their newborns. Similarly, this legislation would allow a son to take off time to care for his ailing mother, or a wife to spend the few remaining days with her dying husband. Situations like these are life’s realities, but paid family leave legislation would help to make such important family time possible.”
Workers would have to exhaust maternity and disability leave time prior to being eligible for paid family leave. Workers would also have to use at least two weeks of sick leave and vacation time before using paid family leave time, according to the bill.
“According to an Eagleton Institute poll, 78% of State residents support paid family leave legislation. Paid family leave gives parents an opportunity to pay their bills while they care for a sick child,” said Majority Leader Sweeney.
Workers seeking leave time would be required to provide their employers with prior notice of the need for leave time, along with a doctor’s note listing details of the need for the time off.
Beginning next January 1, employees would be required to contribute 0.14% of their earned wages to the State Disability Fund, which would then deposit the money into a fund reserved exclusively for the Family Leave program. In 2010, the percentage would increase to 0.18%, which equates to a maximum employee contribution of about $33 a year. For someone making minimum wage, the employee contribution would equal roughly 25 cents a week.
“By passing this legislation, we are ensuring that New Jersey puts the needs of families on a par with the needs of businesses,” said Senator Buono.
This legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk, where his signature would make it State law.