Paid Family Leave Legislation Is Now Law

Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, shakes hands with Governor Corzine at the bill signing ceremony for S-786, which he sponsored with Senate Budget Committee Chair Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, to offer temporary paid family leave for New Jersey’s workers.

TRENTON – Landmark legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and Senator Barbara Buono, which will make New Jersey the second state in the nation (after California) to provide paid family leave benefits for workers caring for sick family members or newborn or newly adopted children was signed into law today, at a ceremony at the State House.

“The signing of this bill ushers in a new day for New Jersey’s workforce, in that it gives hard-working parents and caregivers the time they need to take care of the family members who rely on them the most,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “By now, you all know of my strong conviction for this legislation, because I was in a similar situation when my 14 year-old daughter, Lauren was born. My employer was understanding, and allowed me to take the time I needed. Had my employment situation been different, I could have had a difficult time balancing spending the 75 days at the hospital with my newborn daughter, or going to work to provide for my wife and young son. This new law is aimed at helping workers whose employers won’t allow them to take this necessary leave time.”

The Senators’ bill, S-786, authorizes up to six weeks of employee-paid family leave (temporary disability leave) during any 12 month period, during which an employee may take time off to care for an ill family member, or a newborn or recently adopted child. Employees will receive two-thirds of their weekly salary, up to $524.

“For new parents, there is no more important time to be at home than following the birth of their son or daughter,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “But for many New Jersey families, taking that much time off of work is a luxury they cannot afford. With paid family leave, new mothers and fathers will be able to pay the bills while being with their newborns during those early weeks.”

Workers will have to exhaust maternity and disability leave time prior to being eligible for paid family leave. Employers would be permitted to require workers to use at least two weeks of sick leave or vacation time before using paid family leave time, according to the bill.

“Parents know that raising children is a 24-7 job – you don’t get vacations and sick days, but the time spent caring for your loved ones is priceless. This new law sends a clear message that New Jersey values the health and well-being of its employees and their families,” said Senator Sweeney.

Workers seeking leave time will 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 January 1, 2009, employees will be required to contribute 0.14% of their earned wages to the State Disability Fund, which will then deposit the money into a fund reserved exclusively for the Family Leave program. Benefits will be available, beginning July 1, 2009.

“There simply is nothing more important than one’s family, and this bill recognizes that fact. It will make families in New Jersey stronger and, as a result, make our state a better place to live for everyone,” added Senator Buono.

In 2010, the percentage will increase to 0.18%, which equates to a maximum employee contribution of about $33 a year. For someone making minimum wage, the employee contribution will equal roughly 25 cents a week.

Washington State has approved paid family leave legislation that is slated to go into effect in late 2009.

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