BusinessWeek

Some N.J. Business Owners Say They Support Paid Family Leave

BusinessWeek — Wednesday, September 19, 2007

By TOM HESTER Jr.

TRENTON, N.J. — Several small business owners on Wednesday countered the state's leading business groups and backed a plan to make New Jersey the third state offering paid time off from work to care for a sick relative or new child.

"I need my employees to concentrate on their driving rather than the health or financial problems at home," said the Rev. Ronald Tuff, owner of the R.B.T. Tours bus company in Newark. Tuff and the others spoke at a Statehouse news conference touting legislation to establish a paid family leave program.

The plan was approved by a Senate committee in June, but advanced no farther. Gov. Jon S. Corzine wants it to pass the Legislature by year's end.

Under the proposed law, New Jersey workers could take up to 10 weeks paid leave.

The program would be paid from the state's disability insurance fund through a 0.1 percent charge against weekly wages. Legislative officials estimate that would cost workers about $1 per week. Workers who take leave could get up to $502 per week.

"If family leave insurance passes, employers aren't really being forced to do anything different," said Sheryl Magziner, owner of Centerpiece, a Highland Park gift shop.

California allows workers to take up to six weeks. Washington will allow workers to take five weeks as of October 2009.

Federal law has allowed workers in businesses with at least 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave since 1993.

John Rogers of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said 2,300 of its members told lawmakers they oppose the legislation, which he said would force small businesses to go without employees for long periods.

Business groups also contend the program would hurt the state's business climate and risk the state's disability insurance fund's stability, possibly forcing employers to pay if the fund runs short.

"It's going to be a tax on employees," Rogers said. "I don't know if that gives them peace of mind."

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