Governor Signs Paid Family Leave Expansion

Governor Phil Murphy yesterday signed into law legislation to expand the state’s paid family leave program. The legislation (A3975) extends leave time limits, provides higher compensation to those taking leave, covers more family members, broadens job protections and boosts awareness of the program.

“No one should ever be forced to choose between caring for a family member and earning a paycheck,” said Gov. Murphy. “By providing the most expansive paid family leave time and benefits in the nation, we are ensuring that New Jerseyans no longer have to face such a decision and that working families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. This comprehensive paid family leave program, coupled with the newly passed earned sick leave and minimum wage increase, are fundamental elements in building a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all working families.” 

In 2008, New Jersey became the second state (after California) to adopt a paid family leave policy. On average, about 31,000 New Jerseyans have used paid family leave in each full year of its existence.

The new law (P.L.2019, c.37) changes New Jersey’s paid family leave program in a number of ways, including:

Doubling the number of weeks for Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): Employees can take up to 12 consecutive weeks of paid family leave or temporary disability insurance during any 12-month period, beginning in July 2020. Currently, employees are only able to take up to six weeks of FLI or TDI in a 12-month period. 

Increasing the weekly benefit: Individuals can now receive 85 percent of their weekly wage, with the maximum possible benefit going up to 70 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. Using data from this year, the maximum possible benefit would go up from $650 a week to $860 a week under this law.

Increasing intermittent leave from 42 days to 56 days: Workers will be able to take up to 56 days of intermittent leave within a 12-month period, beginning in July 2020.

Anti-retaliation provisions: Employers with over 30 employees will be barred from retaliating or discriminating against an employee because they took family leave.

Expanding individuals eligible to take paid family leave: The newly-signed legislation expands paid family leave to include caring for siblings, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, other blood relatives, and any other individuals who can be shown to have the equivalent of a family relationship.

Including domestic and sexual violence: The bill explicitly allows family temporary disability leave to be taken for medical attention, counseling, or legal assistance or proceedings arising out of domestic violence or sexual violence. An individual can take family leave under this provision if they themselves were the victim of domestic or sexual violence, or if they need to care for a family member who was such a victim.

The NJCUL had unsuccessfully requested amendments to provide more extensive relief for the small employers and not-for-profits such as credit unions.

The measure is one of a list of workplace measures that candidate Phil Murphy pledged to support when campaigning for governor. Several of those measures including the minimum wage increase and mandatory paid sick leave have already been signed into law.