New Jersey Law Journal

Broad Expansion Of Paid Family Leave Proposed For NJ

New Jersey Law Journal — May 23, 2017

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has proposed a sweeping expansion of the state's 8-year-old paid family leave program.

Prieto on Monday introduced a bill, A-4927, which he said would increase leave times, provide greater compensation to those taking leave, cover more family members, provide greater job protections, and make more people aware of the program.

The current law, enacted in 2009, provides six weeks off at two-thirds pay, but caps payments at an amount set annually. In 2016, the weekly benefit is limited to $633, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

New Jersey was the second state in the country, after California, to offer some form of paid family leave.

The program is funded through employee payroll deductions of about 50 cents a week until they reach the yearly maximum contribution of $33.50. The bill would not call for changing that funding mechanism or deduction.

"We need to build upon the existing law to make it better and more relevant to today's working families," Prieto, D-Hudson, told reporters.

The legislation is supported by New Jersey Citizen Action, the AARP, labor unions and other citizen groups, Prieto said.

Prieto added that he was asking the business community to participate in what might prove to be a final version of the bill. But the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which represents the state's business community, issued a statement that was largely noncommittal on the current proposal.

"We are always concerned about the impact that proposals such as this have on our members," the association said.

"While it is important that employees have the flexibility to take leave for family reasons, potential expansion of the current law must always take into account our members' ability to perform vital functions with fewer staff and also the potential additional costs involved for those business owners who may now just be operating at the margins," the NJBIA statement continued. "We look forward to participating in discussions with the Assembly and thank the speaker for including us in those deliberations."

A representative for Republican Gov. Chris Christie said the administration does not usually comment on pending legislation unless it has been proposed by the governor.

Prieto's bill, which also is sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, and Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, seeks to modify the paid family leave law in several ways. It would:

No dates have been scheduled for committee hearings on the bill.

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