New Jersey's Expansion of Family Leave Entitlements

New Jersey's Expansion of Family Leave Entitlements

On February 19, 2019, Governor Murphy expanded New Jersey’s family and disability leave entitlements by signing Assembly Bill 3975 into law.   The bill amends and expands the scope of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”), the New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance (“TDI”), New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (“FLI”) and New Jersey’s Security and Financial Empowerment (“SAFE”) Act. 

It is absolutely critical for employers to ensure that their existing employee handbooks, policies, and payroll practices comply with the new law before it goes into effect. 

NJFLA

  • Applies to Smaller Employers.  Currently, the NJFLA applies only to employers who have 50 or more employees.  Beginning June 30, 2019, the NJFLA will apply to all employers who employ at least 30 employees during each “working day” in the “20 or more calendar workweeks in the then current or immediately preceding calendar year.”  This change requires more small- to mid-sized employers to comply with the NJFLA, including its anti-retaliation provision that prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for taking paid leave.
  • Increased Intermittent Leave.  Effective July 1, 2020, employees’ intermittent leave entitlement increases from 42 days to 56 days within a 12-month period. Further, employees are entitled to take intermittent leave for bonding with a new baby.
  • More Expansive Definition of “Family Member”:  Effective immediately, the definition of “family member” includes children regardless of age, children conceived through a gestational carrier agreement, domestic partners, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, any other blood relatives, and any “individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

TDI and FLI

  • Double Amount for Paid Leave.  Currently, employees may only take 6 weeks of family leave insurance (“FLI”) during any 12-month period to care for a newborn or sick family member.  Effective July 1, 2020, employees can take up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave under FLI during any 12-month period.  This applies to all employees (regardless of employer size) but it is a financial program and not an entitlement to leave.
  • Increased FLI and TDI Payments.  Effective July 1, 2020, the amount of weekly FLI and TDI benefits will increase from 65% of an employee’s average weekly wage to 85% of an employee’s average weekly wage to a maximum of $860 per week.
  • Waiting Periods and Paid Time Off.  Effective immediately, the 7-day waiting period has been eliminated and employers may no longer require employees to use 2 weeks of paid time off in lieu of 2 weeks of FLI.

SAFE Act

  • Leave Arising from Domestic and Sexual Violence. Employees will now be permitted to use paid family leave for medical attention, counseling, or legal assistance that arises due to situations involving sexual assault or domestic violence. This includes if employees themselves are the victims or must care for a family member who is a victim.  Employees taking leave under the SAFE Act are eligible for FLI benefits.

As a result of Assembly Bill 3975, there are various other changes to New Jersey’s family leave entitlements.  Consult with your employment professional and a close review of all related policies and handbooks is recommended.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the changes to the paid family leave program and your business’ polices, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Employment and Labor Practice Group at Laddey, Clark & Ryan, LLP: Thomas N. Ryan Esq. (tryan@lcrlaw.com), Ursula H. Leo, Esq. (uleo@lcrlaw.com), Jessica A. Jansyn, Esq. (jjansyn@lcrlaw.com), or Nicole C. Tracy, Esq. (ntracy@lcrlaw.com). Our attorneys can also be reached by phone at (973) 729-1880.