On May 2, 2008, New Jersey joined California and Washington to become the third state to require companies to offer paid family medical leave to employees.
The family leave insurance law allows employees to take up to 6 weeks of paid leave a year beginning July 1, 2009. The program is paid thorough payroll deductions costing employees about $33 a year each. Employers are not required to pay into the program. Payroll deductions begin on January 1, 2009.
Under the program, employees may receive two-thirds of their salary, up to a maximum of $524 a week. Employers can require employees to use at least 2 weeks of sick and vacation leave before taking paid leave under the program.
The legislation allows an employee to take paid time off to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. It also allows an employee paid time off to care for a sick relative receiving inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, or under the continuing supervision of a health care provider.
Employee's may take paid leave in one 6-week period per year, or during a maximum of 42 intermittent days a year.
The legislation is designed to run concurrently with the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, not consecutively.
Employees of businesses with 50 or less employees who take paid leave are not guaranteed the right to return to their job under the program.
The law also imposes criminal penalties and fines for employees who fraudulently claim paid leave benefits. Employers are notified and may contest an employee's claim to eligibility under the program.
Comment: Historically, state family leave law has been a leading indicator for the direction of federal legislation. Every year there has been federal legislation introduced to require some paid family leave. Given the current make-up of congress and depending on how the presidential election turns out, federal paid family medical leave legislation may not be far off.