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 was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations panel by a vote of 8-6.
“When my daughter Lauren was born, she remained in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for 75 days, and she required constant care, which meant that either my wife or I were there with her round the clock,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “I’m thankful that I had such an understanding employer, but I can see how it would be hard on an employee who doesn’t. This legislation is about giving families time to bond – it’s about giving them time to care for their loved ones. Passing this legislation is vital to helping hard working New Jerseyans balance taking care of their families and holding onto jobs that enable them to do so.”
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.
“The public supports this bill, and both houses of the Legislature should pass it for that very reason. We as legislators have to be the voice of the people of New Jersey – that’s what we are elected to do, and through this legislation, a major concern of working families will be addressed,” Senator Sweeney said.
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%. The amount contributed by employees would not exceed the Temporary Disability Insurance base of $26,000.
“By passing this legislation, New Jersey would join California and Minnesota, in the forefront of providing necessary leave time for families. Opponents of this bill say that companies cannot afford to offer this leave time, but I say that they cannot afford not to provide the benefits. A company or business is only as strong as the people who work there, and businesses cannot be productive if employees are distracted and worrying about family issues,” said Senator Sweeney.
This legislation now heads to the full Senate for approval.