Improvements Signed Into the New Jersey Family Leave Law

Source: Daily Record

Workers in New Jersey will be able to take twice as much time off after childbirth or to care for a sick family member under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on Tuesday that expands the state’s paid family leave program.

The new law will also provide workers with larger payments during leave and allow them to care for more relatives beyond just their immediate family.

“For middle-class and lower-income families the temporary loss of a paycheck because of the need to care for a loved one can be a daunting and stress-inducing financial hurdle,” Murphy, said at a bill signing ceremony at John F. Kennedy Library in Piscataway.

“But paid family leave can be vital in allowing them to focus their attention where it is most needed: on their family,” he said.

Starting in July of next year, workers will be allowed to take 12 weeks of paid time off after childbirth or to care for a sick family member. The current limit is six weeks. And if workers want to take their leave on an intermittent basis instead of all at once, they will be eligible for 56 days of paid leave in a 12-month period as opposed to the current limit of 42 days.

Advocates say the current payouts are too low for most people to live on and thus discourage many people from using the program. The new law, A-3975, will increase the maximum weekly payment under the leave program to about $860 from $650, Murphy said Tuesday. Up to that limit, workers will be able to receive 85 percent of their weekly wage, up from the current rate of two-thirds of pay. The enhanced payments also begin in July 2020.

Starting immediately, the law makes benefits available to people taking care of a broader variety of family members. Previously, workers could receive payments to bond with a newborn child or to take care of a sick child, parent, spouse or civil union partner. Now, benefits are also available for workers caring for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law and anyone else related by blood or who is the “equivalent” of family.

“That could include a neighbor who you have looked after for years and now needs extra support,” said Sheila Reynertson, a senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, which describes itself as a “think-and-do tank.”

“It also could include members of the LGBT community who, because of circumstances with their own family, have chosen to develop a strong network of friends, which they call their chosen family.” The law also allows victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, and family members who care for such victims, to take advantage of the paid family leave program.

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