Asbury Park Press

Bill Approved For Paid Family Leave Benefits

Asbury Park Press — Tuesday, February 6, 2007

BY MICHAEL RISPOLI
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

TRENTON — The Senate Labor Committee approved a bill Monday that would allow workers to receive paid family leave benefits under the state's temporary disability program.

The legislation, passed by a 3-1 vote, would give workers access to 12 weeks of leave to care for newborns, newly adopted children or sick family members, while being paid two-thirds of their salary. The program would be funded by employees, not employers, by raising payroll taxes about 0.1 percent of workers' wages.

The tax would apply to the same amount of pay as Social Security does, now up to $97,500 a year.

Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, said after several attempts at the proposal and working with business groups, he is cautiously optimistic about the bill's chances of making it through the process.

"The time has come that we should not have to choose between spending some time at home or not being able to spend time at home because of having to go back to work," Wowkanech said.

Many in the business community, particularly small businesses, came out in opposition of the measure. Detractors say this type of "one size fits all" legislation will put a strain on small businesses by forcing employers to pay for temporary workers or pay overtime.

Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said each business should be allowed to handle accommodations for time off because it knows its needs best.

"The needs of a small bakery or gift shop is different than the needs of a hospital with specialized employees," Kirschner said.

Shortly after the hearing, Sen. Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen, a member of the committee, said he was disappointed with the business community's testimony, calling their bottom line profits, not compassion.

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