Phase one, which became effective on June 30, 2019, increases the number of businesses who must comply with New Jersey’s Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”). Now employers with 30 or more employees will be subject to the NJFLA.
As part of phase one the definition of family also has been expanded. The definition must now include “foster children” in the definition of child and “foster parent” in the definition of parent. A parent is also an individual with “a valid written agreement between the parent and a gestational carrier”. The definition of Family member which formerly included child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner individual must now encompass parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or any other individual related by blood, and any other individual that the employee shows to have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship. This expansive definition will allow employees to claim paid time off for almost anyone. Employers should be proactive in revising policy manuals and employee handbooks to include or expand the definition of a family member. Without any clarification as to what information an employee must provide to establish the equivalence of a family relationship, employers are left to establishing their own criteria for verification in their policies and handbooks to establish and approve “close association equivalent to a family relationship” leave.
Phase two, to take effect in July 1, 2020, and will impact employers indirectly when employees’ disability benefits are expanded from 6 to 12 weeks. The benefit rate, funded by employee contributions, will increase from two-thirds or 67% of an employee’s average weekly wage and a cap of $650 per week to 85% of an employee’s average weekly wage and a cap of approximately $860 per week. Intermittent leave will also expand from an allowable 42 days to 56 days over a period of 12 months. Employers are likely to see employees request longer periods of leave. Where necessary, employers will need to employ substitutes or temporary employees to cover these absences.
Phase one also reduced the amount of sick leave governmental employees or those under a collective bargaining agreement must exhaust before the employee becomes eligible to receive benefits under the State’s Temporary Disability Benefits. Previously employees had to exhaust all accumulated sick leave. Now these employees must only exhaust two weeks of accumulated sick leave.
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me Carolyn Chaudry, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.