New Jersey recently became the third state to enact a paid family leave act permitting employees to take up to six weeks off each year to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or a seriously ill parent, spouse or child. Employees are eligible to receive up to two-thirds of their weekly salary, up to $524 per week, for six weeks during any twelve-month period as family leave insurance benefits either from the State or through a private insurance plan. While employee contributions to the State fund commenced on January 1, 2009, employees will not be eligible to receive such benefits until July 1, 2009.
The Paid Family Leave Act does not change an employee’s rights under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) or the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which require employers of more than 50 employees to provide twelve weeks of unpaid leave to employees to care for a newborn, newly adopted child or a seriously ill family member. The Paid Family Leave Act adds the additional requirement of paid leave and also applies to employers of less than 50 individuals.
Paid leave to care for seriously ill family members can be taken in a single continuous period or on an as-needed basis, not to exceed 42 days per year. However, leave taken following the birth or adoption of a child must be taken continuously unless the employer agrees otherwise. Employees wishing to take leave to care for a sick family member must provide reasonable notice, to the extent possible, and minimize disruption to the employer’s business. Unlike employers subject to NJFLA or FMLA (those with 50 or more employees) employers will not be required to reinstate employees to their previous position following paid leave. Thus, while the Paid Family Leave Act allows for at least partial wage protection, it does not provide job security.