Come June 30, 2019, more employers in New Jersey will need to be equipped with leave policies that address paid family leave, since this change in the law will effect employers of 30 or more employees.

On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill 3975, which expands existing paid family leave benefits and protections currently available through the State of New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Program (PFLP). Certain changes take effect immediately, while others are not required until June 30, 2019, and July 1, 2020.

Effective Immediately

The new law expands the current definitions of child, parent and family member. Assembly Bill 3975 redefines such terms to make clear that employees may seek paid family leave to care for foster children, parent-in-laws, grandparents, domestic partners, siblings, grandchildren, blood relatives and any other individuals who have the equivalent of a family relationship with an employee. These amended definitions are more inclusive and increase the scope of paid leave benefits permitted under the FPLP.

Changes Effective June 30, 2019

Currently, the PFLP applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then current or immediately preceding calendar year. As of June 30, 2019, the FPLP will cover more New Jersey employers. Employers with 30 or more employees within the requisite time frame will be subject to the law.

Changes Effective July 1, 2020

Increase in Duration of Paid Leave Benefits

New Jersey currently provides employees with benefits for up to six weeks of paid family leave and 42 days of intermittent leave, subject to certain conditions, in a 12-month period. Starting on July 1, 2020, employees will be eligible for benefits for up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave and 56 days of intermittent leave, also subject to certain conditions, during any 12-month period.

Increase in Weekly Payment Amount During Paid Leave

Under the state’s current paid family leave law, employees who take paid family leave are eligible to receive up to two-thirds of their pay, with the maximum benefit of $650 per week for up to six weeks. Assembly Bill 3975 increases the weekly benefit to 85 percent of the employee’s weekly wage, with the maximum weekly benefit going up to 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. Using data from 2019, the maximum possible weekly benefit would go up from $650 a week to $860 a week. These benefits will continue to be funded by employee contributions through payroll deductions.

Expanded Reasons for Paid Leave

In addition to the increase in covered employers and family members based on the expanded definitions noted above, paid leave benefits under the FPLP will cover leave taken for reasons covered by the New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, commonly referred to as the New Jersey SAFE Act. Those who are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault or caring for family members who were victims of such violent offenses will be eligible for paid leave under circumstances covered by the New Jersey SAFE Act, discussed in a previous Alert.

New Anti-Retaliation Protections

Assembly Bill 3975 includes sweeping anti-retaliation protections barring employers with 30 or more employees from harassing, threatening or otherwise discriminating or retaliating against an employee because the employee exercised paid family leave rights by requesting or receiving paid family leave benefits. Employers with 50 or more employees are also subject to the anti-retaliation and job restoration protections provided under the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

What This Means for New Jersey Employers

Come June 30, 2019, more employers in New Jersey will need to be equipped with leave policies that address paid family leave, since this change in the law will effect employers of 30 or more employees, not just larger employers of 50 or more employees. Larger employers should continue to be aware of the interplay between the protections provided by PFLP and the protections afforded under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act.

All New Jersey employers should begin taking steps now to ensure that their leave polices comply with existing state and federal laws governing family leave, as well as with the changes to the PFLP now, and the changes on the horizon. Additionally, employers should educate supervisors and human resources professionals on the amended law’s requirements and conduct any necessary training before the changes to the law take effect on July 1, 2020.