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Family Leave Bill Improved

Home News Tribune — Monday, March 10, 2008

EDITORIAL

After a close Senate vote last week, it appears all but certain that New Jersey will soon become the third state in the nation to offer paid leave to employees who take time off to care for a new child or a sick relative.

The proposal was extremely controversial, mostly because it appeared extravagant at a moment when both the public and private spheres are struggling financially. It's important to note that, at least if the state's calculations are correct, neither the state nor employers will fund the program: the money will come from raising disability insurance payroll deductions, increases that will cost employees $33 a year at most.

The real question is whether granting extended time off will harm small companies, who must somehow find ways to do the job that is being left. The bill that passed does contain provisions that insulate small businesses: those with fewer than 50 employees are not obligated to keep the job open for the returning worker. In addition, the number of paid weeks has been shortened to six from 10.

It's difficult to know what the real impact will be. In some sense, no one may notice but the workers themselves. After all, businesses already are required to grant family leave to employees. And in many cases, people have plundered savings accounts and gone into debt in order to take that unpaid leave.

It is, to be sure, an uncertain moment for New Jersey businesses. But we hope the new law will offer mental and financial relief to employees, who after all are human beings first, without being noticeably detrimental to businesses' bottom lines.

Copyright 2008 Home News Tribune

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