Philadelphia Business Journal

Paid Family Leave Act Going To N.J. Senate

Philadelphia Business Journal — Friday, May 25, 2007

By Athena D. Merritt

Legislation that would provide New Jersey workers with paid time off to care for sick family members, newborns and newly adopted children is on its way to the full Senate for approval.

The proposal, sponsored by Sens. Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, and Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, was approved Thursday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations panel.

If adopted, it would expand the state's existing temporary disability insurance to cover up to 10 weeks of leave by an employee to care for a newborn, newly adopted child or seriously ill family member.

The bill originally proposed 12 weeks of paid family leave, but was amended as a compromise with the state's business community, Sweeney said.

The Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses have all expressed concerns over the legislation in the past ranging from the potential for abuse by employees to the hardship and cost to replace employees out on leave.

Under the legislation, paid leave would be funded by an assessment of 0.1 percent on each worker's salary. Companies could require employees to use up to two weeks of sick, vacation or other paid leave prior to taking the family leave. Employees would also have to provide employers with prior notice of leave, a doctor's note outlining the need and the estimated duration of the paid leave time.

Currently, California is the only other state in the nation to grant paid family leave, providing six weeks, Sweeney said.

"How an employer can force a worker to choose between taking time off to care for a family member and being able to make ends meet financially is beyond me," Sweeney said. "The passage of this legislation would send a clear message to New Jersey's workers that they will no longer have to choose their financial livelihood over caring for a loved one."

Copyright 2007 American City Business Journals Inc.

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