With numerous provisions and expansions, managing family leave programs in New Jersey is a constant challenge for business owners.
It also has an impact on operating costs. In February of 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill to amend the state’s leave entitlements benefiting New Jersey’s workforce. More time off for employees means an increase in overtime wages and replacement staff to cover workers out on job-protected leave.
Then there are they penalties for violation – up to $1,000, and in certain cases imprisonment for up to 90 days.
To assist you in maintaining compliance, we present an overview of the existing family leave programs that were affected, and the changes that have occurred up to the publishing date of this article.
Family Leave Act (FLA)
FLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a newborn or adopted child, or to care for a sick family member.
The law covers child bonding to include foster care and surrogacy, and leave to care for more family members including grandchildren, siblings, grandparents or any individual with a close association to the employee.
In 2020, FLA was expanded to cover epidemic-related reasons for leave, including care for a family member who has been exposed and/or is in quarantine, or care for a child whose school has been closed due to a communicable disease.
“Job-protected leave” requires the employer to reinstate the employee to the same position or to a position equivalent in status, pay and benefits, with few exceptions. Also, group health insurance benefits must be maintained during leave.
Currently, all New Jersey employers with 30 or more employees (nationwide), will be required to provide workers with 12 weeks of job-protected leave. The leave can be 12 consecutive weeks, or intermittent during a 24-month period.
FLA is separate from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Workers may be eligible for additional leave under FMLA.
Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI)
FLI and TDI are monetary benefits. FLI is to bond with a child, or care for a family member. TDI is short-term disability for non-work-related illness or injury. Expectant mothers are eligible for both.
In 2020, the programs were required to double paid leave to 12 consecutive weeks in a 12-month period. Intermittent paid leave increased from 42 to 56 days in a 12-month period.
Payments have increased from $667 (maximum weekly benefit), to $903 in 2021. Employers do not fund the wage replacement benefit; employees pay into the programs through an automatic payroll deduction. To cover the significant increases in these benefits, the taxable wage base has increased to $138,200 for 2021 for workers contributing to these programs.
Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act
The SAFE Act currently provides 20 days of unpaid leave to address circumstances resulting from domestic or sexual violence. In 2020, SAFE leave became eligible for paid benefits under TDI for victims, or FLI if a family member is a victim of domestic or sexual abuse.
Under an anti-retaliation provision, applicable to all the expanded family leave programs, employers may not:
- retaliate or discriminate against workers who request or take leave;
- require workers to use their PTO before FLI/TDI benefits begin;
- refuse to reinstate employees after FLA ends.
The key to successful family leave management is having an HR professional by your side to guide you. Schedule a consultation with us to find the right solution for your business.