TRENTON – In an effort to make sure all workers have access to sick leave stemming from issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate Labor Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would require employers to provide paid earned sick leave on a temporary basis to address employee leave issues and alleviate other pressures resulting from the pandemic.
The leave provided under the bill, S-3827, is to be provided in addition to the earned sick leave that is required by current law, in which employees are entitled to at least 40 hours of sick time per year accrued at least at the rate of one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The new leave would be provided in the following amounts:
- a) For employees who normally work 40 or more hours in a week, 80 hours.
- b) For employees who normally work fewer than 40 hours in a week (part-time employees), a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a two-week period.
Most employers who provide the new sick time would not be left to pay the expense out-of-pocket, but would be eligible to apply for reimbursement of pay issued during the leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act.
“Providing workers with easy access to these safety-net programs during a health crisis that still continues will allow them to care for themselves and their families, and allow them to make stressful decisions without concerns about leave time. It will also reduce the spread of communicable diseases, as many people covered by the minimum leave policy work in jobs that involve a lot of interaction with others, such as food preparation or retail,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen).
These employees represent a particularly vulnerable section of the workforce, as people who are covered by earned sick leave tend to be low-earners and / or part-time workers.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the number of people involuntarily working part-time has increased by 45 percent since 2007. Black and Hispanic workers have been most impacted by this shift. 6.8 percent of Hispanic employees and 6.3 percent of Black employees have part-time hours but want to work full-time, compared with 3.7 percent of white workers.
“These are employees who have kept our economy running, putting themselves at risk, even during the darkest hours of the past year, often putting off the well-being of other members of their families in order to earn a pay-check. It is only right they be allowed their full complement of sick days,” noted Senator Weinberg.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 3-1.