Burlington County Times

AARP Poll Finds Support For Paid Sick Leave

Burlington County Times — Friday, October 31, 2014

By David Levinsky
Staff writer

Most New Jersey residents over age 40 are in favor of requiring employers to provide some paid sick leave for employees to care for a family member, according to a poll commissioned by AARP.

According to the poll, 80 percent of the people polled support the idea, including 60 percent who "strongly support" it and 20 percent who "somewhat support" it. A total of 13.5 percent of respondents either "strongly oppose" or "somewhat oppose" the proposed mandate, and about 6 percent neither support nor oppose or aren't sure of their position on the issue.

The poll also found that more than half of the respondents are either currently providing care to a family member or have done so in the past. Among those who are or were caregivers, 61 percent reported having to take time off from work or going to work early or late to provide care, and 30 percent reported having to do so at least weekly.

The poll was based on an April survey of 1,000 New Jersey residents 40 or older. It had a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

AARP officials said they released the results Thursday due to the ongoing debate in the state Legislature over a proposed sick leave bill, and because residents in Trenton and some other municipalities will consider ballot measures to require paid sick time.

"We know that millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans risk financial difficulties or losing their jobs if they must take time off to address family needs," said Ev Liebman, associate state director for AARP-NJ.

"The best protection is having access to paid leave to care for an older relative or family member," Liebman said.

The bill requiring employers statewide to provide a minimum amount of paid leave was introduced earlier this year. It cleared its first legislative hurdle this week, when the Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 to release it.

The measure would mandate that all public and private sector employees accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Employers with more than 10 workers would be permitted to cap the amount of sick time at 72 hours. Those with fewer than 10 workers could cap the amount at 40 hours.

Opponents of the measure claim it would create a burden on businesses in the state and could impede their existing policies.

Unions, worker advocacy groups and other supporters claim the bill provides reasonable protections to employees, particularly the growing number of those who have to care for an aging or sick family member.

"The typical caregiver is working. ... They're juggling both work and caregiving," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of NJ Citizen Action. "Our public policy has to catch up to support caregivers."

In addition to paid sick time, nearly all the poll respondents said they support requiring hospitals or rehab facilities to provide demonstrations and training of nursing tasks that caregivers will need to perform at home.

Just over 80 percent also support giving caregivers an income tax credit for expenses they incur for the care and support of older family members who live with them.

Legislation requiring hospitals to provide caregivers with training on the care of patients they discharge was approved by state lawmakers last month and is on Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

A separate bill to give caregivers a tax credit has been introduced but is still pending before committees in the Senate and Assembly.

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