Paid Family Leave Could Get To Governor Soon

NJBIZ — Wednesday, February 27, 2008

By Scott Goldstein

Legislation that would allow private sector and government workers to take six weeks of paid leave to care for newborns or seriously ill family members is picking up so much momentum that its chief sponsor said it could get final approval from the Legislature by the end of March.

The Paid Family Leave bill (S-786) is scheduled to get a hearing in front of the Assembly Labor Committee tomorrow and will get a vote by the full Senate Monday, said Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), the architect of the bill and its chief sponsor.

Sweeney told NJBIZ he is hoping the Legislature gives final approval to the bill by the end of March. If it passes and is signed by Gov. Jon Corzine – the governor has already said he would sign it – the program would begin in January.

"This bill is ready to be voted on," said Sweeney, who has been pushing the legislation for two years.

Though employers would not be responsible to pay for the leave, business lobbyists are saying companies – especially small ones – cannot afford to lose key workers for up to six weeks at a time and pay for temporary replacements.

Under the bill, workers who use paid family leave would get two-thirds pay, up to $524 per week. Currently, employers are required to allow 12 weeks of leave, but it is unpaid and companies with fewer than 50 employees are not required to allow any leave.

The program would be funded by workers who would pay about 75 cents a week more into the existing state Temporary Disability Insurance fund through payroll deductions.

California offers six weeks of leave at 55 percent of the worker's pay with a cap of $840 per week. Washington state recently adopted a program that offers five weeks of leave with pay of no more than $250 per week.

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