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New Jersey Expands Family And SAFE Leave Protections And Benefits


New Jersey’s governor just approved a significant expansion of the state’s leave laws, permitting employees job-protected leave for a variety of new reasons while expanding available state-provided, income-replacement benefits. The February 19 action by Governor Phil Murphy expands existing job-protected leave under the Family Leave and SAFE Acts, and available benefits under Family Leave Insurance.

Increased Leave Protections Under The New Jersey Family Leave Act

Prior to the amendments, the New Jersey Family Leave Act required employers with 50 or more employees (counting those employed both in and outside New Jersey) to provide their New Jersey employees with 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 24-month period to care for a family member (parent, parent-in-law, minor or disabled child, spouse, or civil union partner) with a serious health condition, or to bond with a newly born or adopted child (“bonding leave”). The new legislation extends coverage to employers with 30 or more employees effective June 30, 2019. 

The other new provisions, which went into effect immediately, permit employees to take leave:

Increased Leave Protections Under The NJ SAFE Act

The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act (NJ SAFE Act) applies to employers with 25 or more employees and grants an employee 20 days of leave in a 12-month period if the employee, or the employee’s family member, including a child (under 19 or 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 amended Act:

Increased Family Leave Insurance Benefits

Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) provides New Jersey workers with benefits during 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. The program provides employees up to six weeks of benefits paid at rate of two-thirds of their pay, to a maximum of $650. The new law will expand benefits to 12 weeks and increase the weekly benefits effective July1, 2020 and broaden other protections immediately. 

Changes Effective Immediately Include The Following:

For Leave Commencing On Or After July 1, 2020, Changes Include The Following:

What Should Employers Do Now?

Only a handful of states provide paid family leave benefits, and with this new legislation, New Jersey will provide some of the most generous benefits in the country. Understandably, small businesses fear the rapid expansion of employee benefits will adversely impact their bottom lines. For example, while employers do not contribute to NJFLI, many expect the expanded benefits will increase overtime to existing workers or to fees to hire temporary employees to cover the shifts of employees on leave protected by the Family Leave or SAFE Act. 

Especially because many of its new requirements are effective immediately, you must promptly update your policies and practices to ensure compliance. Then, beginning June 30, 2019, the Family Leave Act expands its reach to employers with 30 employees. This will significantly increase the number of employers that must provide job-protected leave to their employees. Therefore, many smaller businesses will become subject to the law’s requirement and must be ready. 

You need to inform your managers and supervisors of your policy changes, and of prohibitions against retaliation. Finally, be on the lookout for updated notices from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. These notices must be posted at a conspicuous place at all worksites. The NJFLI notice must be distributed to all newly hired employees and employees requesting time-off for a reason that may qualify for benefits.

We will continue to monitor further developments and provide updates, so you should ensure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ alert system to gather the most up-to-date information. If you have questions, please contact your Fisher Phillips attorney or any attorney in our New Jersey office.

This Legal Alert provides information about a specific new state law. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.

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