Whether on the state or federal level, . The New Jersey Assembly and Senate recently approved a bill expanding family temporary disability leave benefits.[caption id="attachment_21469" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io[/caption]
On the federal level, a group of independent think tanks released a report recommending a national paid family leave program. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI)-Brookings Working Group on Paid Family Leave also proposed a compromise proposal intended to garner support from Republican and Democrats.
Expanded Benefits Under New Jersey’s Leave Laws
New Jersey is one of a handful of states to require employers to provide paid family leave. The Family Leave Act allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid leave during any 12-month period in the form of state temporary disability insurance benefits. Employees on paid leave receive two-thirds of their salary, to a maximum of $677 per week.
State lawmakers recently approved Assembly Bill Number 4927, which would increase the maximum number of family disability leave weeks from 6 to 12. It would also expand the maximum amount that covered workers could collect in benefits to $932 per week. Below are several other key changes:
- Family temporary disability leave benefits with respect to a birth or adoption may be taken on an intermittent basis.
- Family members for whom covered individuals may use family disability leave benefits is expanded to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
- Leave may be taken to participate in the providing of care for a family member who has been a victim of an incident of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense.
- An employer may not discharge, harass, threaten, or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis that the employee took or requested any family temporary disability leave to which the employee was entitled.
- An employee who becomes a parent of a child pursuant to a gestational carrier agreement has the same rights to family leave as an employee who is a parent of a newborn child.
- Any individual who is self-employed, who is not a covered employer, and who receives the major part of total remuneration from the trade, business, or occupation in which he or she is self-employed, may “opt in” to the program.
Compromise on Federal Paid Leave
A new bi-partisan report entitled Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come, addresses both the benefits and costs of providing paid leave from the perspective of workers, businesses and society. It also evaluated three proposals already on the table —the FAMILY Act introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rose DeLauro (D-CT), the proposal offered by President Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and the Strong Families Act sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Angus King (I-ME), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The report concludes that some form of paid parental leave should be offered to help workers at the time of birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. While the group could not come up with a plan that made everyone happy, it did draft a compromise proposal for federal lawmakers to consider. Under the paid family leave plan, workers would be eligible for eight weeks of gender-neutral paid parental leave and receive 70 percent of their wages. The proposal includes a provision to ensure job protection. The program would be fully funded by a combination of payroll taxes and savings elsewhere in the budget.
Likelihood of Passage
In New Jersey, the State Assembly and Senate have approved AB 4927. However, it is unclear if Gov. Chris Christie will sign it. Of course, should voters elect a Democrat in November, lawmakers could try again, knowing the likelihood of passage will be much higher.
On the federal level, a paid family leave program has the support of the top executive. President Donald Trump recently included paid family leave in his proposed budget. His daughter, Ivanka, has made paid family leave a top priority. However, Congress will still have to come together to pass a bill.
Are you a New Jersey employer? Do you have any questions regarding the potential paid family leave obligations? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Sean Dias, at 201-806-3364.