By Maggie Johnson
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy continues to place his mark on state employment law, making life somewhat easier for working families. It wasn’t long ago that New Jersey employers had to become familiar and comply with the New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Act. Here comes the next phase! On February 19, 2019, amendments to the New Jersey Family Leave and SAFE Acts were signed into law and shall become effective on June 30, 2019. In addition, changes were made to New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance legislation, which are effective on July 1, 2020. However, be aware that there are also new requirements under the provisions of the aforementioned amended laws that employers must comply with now. These amendments will significantly expand the benefits afforded to New Jersey workers, and provide them with some of the most generous in the country. Let’s review:
Previously, the NJFLA applied to employers who had 50 or more employees. On June 30, 2019, the amended law will apply to any employer with 30 or more employees in total, working both inside and outside the state of New Jersey.
On June 30, 2019, applicable employers as mentioned above must provide their employees with job protected family leave of up to 12 weeks in a 24-month period. Leave may be taken in 12 consecutive weeks, intermittently, or on a reduced leave schedule for the following reasons:
- To care for a family member (parent, parent-in-law, minor or disabled child, spouse, or civil union partner) with a serious health condition
- To bond with a newborn or adopted child
There are some new provisions of the law that take immediate effect. These require the employer to provide job protected leave for the following reasons:
- To bond with a newborn child conceived through a gestational carrier agreement
- To bond with a newly placed foster child
- For bonding on an intermittent basis (weeks or days) without the employer’s consent (previously had to be agreed to by both the employer and employee)
- For bonding in full day increments (on a reduced leave schedule) over a period of 12 consecutive months (a reduced leave could not previously be taken over more than 24 consecutive weeks)
- To care for any child who is aged 18 or older
- To care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, foster parent, any individual related by blood, or any other individual with a close association equivalent to a family relationship
Employees only have to provide their employer with 15 days of advance notice when requesting intermittent bonding leave, but they must continue to provide 30 days of advance notice for continuous bonding leave.
Employers with 25 or more employees are required to comply with The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act). Under the Act, an employee is granted 20 days of leave in a 12-month period in the event the employee, or the employee’s family member, including a child (under age 19 or a child of any age incapable of self-care), parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner, has been the victim of domestic violence or a sexually violent offense. Under the recent amendment to the Act, eligible family members have been expanded to include a parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, any individual related by blood or any other individual with a close association equivalent of a family relationship. It is important to note that employers cannot require eligible employees to use their accrued paid leave. In addition, employees are now eligible for family leave insurance benefits.
New Jersey workers are afforded paid benefits under New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) for time off from work to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child or to provide care for a seriously ill or injured family member. Currently, six weeks of paid benefits are provided at the rate of 66% of the employee’s pay to a maximum of $650 per week.
On July 1, 2020, the period to receive weekly benefits will be extended to 12 weeks during any 12-month period, and weekly benefit amounts will increase to 85% of the employee’s average weekly wage to a maximum of $860. NOTE: This increase in paid benefits also applies to temporary disability benefits (TDB). Also note that the intermittent leave allotment will increase from 42 days to 56 days on July 1, 2020.
While employers do not contribute to the NJFLI (costs are borne by an assessment to employees’ wages), there are immediate changes to the NJFLI that employers should know. For example, employers must give the NJFLI notice (obtainable from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development) to all newly hired employees and employees requesting time off that may qualify them for NJFLI benefits.
Prior to the recent amendments to the NJFLI, benefits were limited to leaves to care for children under age 19 or who were incapable of self-care, a spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner or parent. Now, paid benefits are available during leaves for the following purposes:
- To care for a child of any age, a child conceived through a gestational carrier agreement, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, foster parent, any individual related by blood, or any other individual with a close association equivalent to a family relationship.
- Under the provisions of the NJ SAFE Leave Act
It is important to know that employers cannot require their employees to use two weeks of paid time off (PTO) in lieu of two weeks of NJFLI. Employees may now elect to use their available PTO in addition to their NJFLI benefits. Employers should also be aware that the seven-day waiting period has been eliminated.
Employers who fail to comply with the above leave and benefit laws and their notice requirements are subject to fines and penalties by the state. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from discharging, reprimanding, harassing, threatening, discriminating or retaliating against an employee in any respect because the employee took or requested NJFLI.
Lastly, you can obtain updated notices for posting and distribution from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as other sources. You must post the notices in a conspicuous place in the workplace. Moreover, be sure to distribute notices to newly hired and other employees as required by law.
The above article is provided as initial information only. You should not rely on such information as a substitute to professional advice from an appropriately qualified licensed attorney or advisor.
I have more than 25 years of experience in HR Leadership that spans the healthcare,education and financial services industries. I also hold a law degree (LLB) with honors from the University of London and have SPHR and SHRM-SPC designation from HRCI and the Society for Human Resource Management, respectively.
View Full Bio »