TRENTON � Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, released the following statement today regarding his testimony before the Assembly Labor Committee about legislation he sponsored with Senator Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, to provide paid family leave benefits for workers caring for sick family members and newborn or newly adopted children.
�This paid family leave bill is a fairness bill; it does the right thing for working men and women. The legislation is 12 years in the making, and I applaud its sponsors as well as the Assembly leadership and Senate President Codey for moving it, and working to make a big difference in the lives of working families.�
�I�ve heard testimony from critics who argue that they cannot afford to provide this type of leave time for their employees, but I say that we cannot afford not to. Those same critics complain that this is not the time to do this type of legislation � and my response to them is, if not now, then when?
�According to an October 2007 Eagleton Institute poll, 78% of residents support the idea of paid family leave. Working families have been waiting for these benefits for far too long. This is something that the public wants because they know it will benefit them. This bill is as good as it�s going to get, and I am looking forward to the day when this legislation becomes law.�
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.
Employees would have to exhaust maternity and disability leave time prior to being eligible for paid family leave. Employees would also have to use at least two weeks of sick and vacation before using paid family leave time.
Employees 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%. 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.
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee by a vote of 8-6 on January 28. It is up for a vote before the full Senate on Monday, March 3.