Herald News

Sick-Pay Bill Advances

Measure now faces full Assembly vote after clearing budget panel despite opposition from business groups

By HUGH R. MORLEY
STAFF WRITER

Herald News — Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A bill that would require private employers to provide paid sick leave for workers moved forward Monday with backing from the Assembly Budget Committee.

The committee voted along party lines — six Democrats to four Republicans, with one abstention — in favor of the bill, which would enable employees to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Bill supporters say 1.1 million people in the state are unable to take paid sick leave. They say that the measure, if enacted, would make New Jersey one of only three states with a paid sick leave requirement. Opponents say the bill would hurt businesses, adding to what they see as the state's already heavily regulated business environment.

The bill, which Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has said will be a priority for him, is now expected to go to a full Assembly vote. A similar bill in the Senate, introduced in January, has not yet advanced.

"Earned sick leave is a sensible workplace policy that is good for business and will prove crucial to New Jersey's economic future, stability and strength," said Raj Mukherji, D-Jersey City, a bill sponsor. "Workers who can properly take care of themselves and their families will feel secure in their jobs and be better employees."

New Jersey Business and Industry Association, a Trenton-based trade group, expressed concern at the bill's advance, saying it would burden even businesses that already provide paid sick leave because they would have to document their policies and place other mandates on businesses.

"Many New Jersey employers already provide their employees with paid sick leave," said Michele Siekerka, the organization's president. "We should not punish the vast majority of those who already have a paid sick leave policy because of the few bad actors who don't."

Workers at companies with fewer than 10 employees would be able to accrue up to 40 hours of sick time that could be carried over from one year to the next.

Employers with 10 or more workers would be required to allow workers to accrue and carry over up to 72 hours of sick leave.

"When you get sick, you shouldn't need to worry about losing pay or even your job," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of NJ Citizen Action and spokeswoman for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, a collection of unions and anti-poverty groups that back the bill.

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