Family Leave Expansion for New Jersey Employees
The FMLA is always a hot area to debate, and it’s normal to see legislature slightly expanding—or restricting—this vital component of workers’ rights.
However, the Family Leave Act (FLA) and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) bills signed in New Jersey will drastically expand the parameters of past FMLA regulations, meaning you’ll have to be ready to accommodate more paid time off and other benefits.
Here are a few things the FLA and FLI will change in 2020.
FLA and FLI Basics
Some changes from the FLA and FLI expansions go into effect on July 1, 2019 while others on July 1, 2020. Both of these bills stand to increase both the amount of time off that workers can take in order to care for newborn children, sick relatives, or recovering family members; in addition, the bills will also impact the following criteria:
- Amount of intermittent time employees can take off
- Who qualifies for FLA and FLI leave
- How many employees your business can have without qualifying for FLA stipulations
- How much employees can earn while on FLI benefits
It’s important to remember that, while increased time off will occasionally result in your business being short-handed, these FLA and FLI expansions will help foster loyalty, employee longevity, and an overall boost in worker happiness. These positive side-effects will, in turn, result in a more desirable workplace culture, a better business reputation, and even increased productivity—so long as you maintain a visibly positive attitude about the changes.
As of June 30, 2019, if your business has 30 or more employees, those employees qualify for the coverage provided under the FLA and FLI bills. This is a decrease from the previous bills’ 50-employee minimum, so plan accordingly—after all, you may find that your number of contractors versus full-time employees still keeps your business under the 30-employee minimum.
Previously, employees who took job-protected family leave had fairly limited options vis-à-vis family members who qualified: children, parents, spouses, and civil union partners. Under the expanded bills, your employees will be able to take time off for virtually any family member, including close family friends and non-blood relatives; essentially, anyone who qualifies as “family-like” merits familial leave if the circumstances dictate as much.
The definitions regarding familial circumstances that qualify for family leave have also expanded to include caring for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. This may lead employees who want to take time off for sensitive matters to keep their rationales vague when communicating with you, so keep this stipulation in mind—especially since employees who encounter sexual or domestic violence themselves may also take paid time off under the FLA and FLI changes.
Under the previous versions of NJ FLI, employees could apply for up to two-thirds of their usual salary, with a maximum compensation of 53 percent of the state average salary—around $650 per week. The revised versions of the NJ FLI will allow employees to earn up to 85 percent of their salaries, capping out at 70 percent of the state average (around $860 per week).
Keep in mind that these changes don’t go into effect until July 1, 2020.
Perhaps the most significant amendment to the FLA is the shift in stipulations regarding paid time off. While previous iterations of the FLA allowed only six weeks of job-protected time off—or 42 intermittent days—of approved leave, the current version will allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of continuous time off. Employees will also be able to take up to 56 days of intermittent time off within a 12-month period.
The stipulations around intermittent leave have also changed insofar as the amount of prior notice an employee must give has decreased from 30 days to 15 days. Additionally, leave is automatically available upon the birth or adoption—or fostering—of a child. Previously, employees could only qualify for leave with an employer’s approved written permission.
Finally, employees may work on a reduced schedule without penalty for up to 12 months. This is one of the largest changes to the FLA and FLI, as the prior versions thereof only permitted up to 24 weeks of reduced schedule work.
NJ Family Leave Summary Infographic
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Reliable paid and unpaid family leave given with a smile and assurance that your employees’ jobs will await them when they return will do wonders for your employee morale, but it will also place more of a burden on you to make do with your remaining staff for an increased amount of time. For more information on how you can provide your employees with the best care while staying economically viable, call Abacus Payroll at (856) 667-6225 today.