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March 11, 2019

Amendments to New Jersey Family Leave Laws (article)

New Jersey currently has several types of family leave laws in place; specifically, the Family Leave Act, the Family Leave Insurance law, and the Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act). On February 19, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law amending these three leave laws, as follows.

The New Jersey’s Family Leave Act requires covered employers to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of family leave in any 24-month period for birth of a child, placement of a child through adoption or foster care, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.  Leave to care for one’s own serious health condition is available through the New Jersey temporary disability law (see Family Leave Insurance discussed below). 

Currently, the law applies to employers employing 50 or more employees on each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or immediately preceding calendar year.  For purposes of determining employer size, all employees are counted, without regard to the employee’s place of work or residence.  Beginning June 30, 2019, employer size is reduced such that the law will become applicable to employers employing 30 or more employees.  Further, employers with 30 or more employees will become subject to the non-discrimination and non-retaliation provisions of the law, as well as job reinstatement obligations once employees return from leave.

To be eligible for family leave, an employee must be employed in New Jersey by a covered employer for a minimum of 12 months, and accumulated a minimum of 1,000 base hours of work in the 12 months preceding the need for leave.

Family leave may be paid, unpaid, or a combination of both.  If an employer provides paid family leave for fewer than 12 workweeks, the additional weeks of leave added to attain the 12-workweek total may be unpaid.  Leave may be taken on a consecutive, intermittent, or reduced leave schedule.  Leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child can be taken any time within 12 months of the birth, adoption, or foster care placement.  For intermittent leave to care for a family member, the law reduces the employee’s obligation to provide advance notice from 30 days to 15 days. Notice for leave requests for a single continuous period remains at 30 days.

The amended law broadens the definition of family member, such that the term now includes:

  • A child, whether biological, adopted, foster, step, or a child born via gestational carrier;
  • A spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner;
  • A parent, whether biological, adopted, foster, step, parent-in-law, or a parent via gestational carrier;
  • A sibling;
  • A grandparent or grandchild;
  • Any other individual related by blood to the employee, and
  • Any other individual closely associated with the employee that is equivalent to a family relationship.  

Additional information about the Family Leave law is available from New Jersey’s Attorney General website (http://www.nj.gov/oag/dcr/index.html).

Family Leave Insurance

The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance benefits are intended to partially replace wages of employees who need to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. The program complements the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance program, which provides for partial wage replacement during an employee’s own injury, illness, or other disability, including pregnancy.  

Generally, all private and government employers subject to the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation law, regardless of size, are deemed to be covered employers for purposes of the Family Leave Insurance law.  Employees eligible for Family Leave Insurance benefits are those who meet certain criteria; specifically, for 2019, the individual must have worked a minimum of 20 weeks, earning $172 or more per week; or earned a minimum of $8,600 in the past 12 months prior to the leave. 

Amount of leave.  Family Leave Insurance benefits are available for a maximum of six weeks in a 12-month period.  The law was amended such that beginning July 1, 2020, an individual is entitled to use up to 12 weeks of consecutive leave, or 56 days of intermittent leave, in a 12-month period for baby bonding, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Funding.  The family leave program is funded solely by employee payroll deductions, determined as of September 1 of the prior calendar year; employers do not contribute to the program.  Beginning January 1, 2019, each employee contributes 0.08% of the taxable wage base. The taxable wage base is the first $34,400 in covered wages earned during the calendar year; the maximum yearly deduction for Family Leave Insurance is $27.52.

Weekly benefit.  The weekly benefit rate for Family Leave Insurance is based on the individual’s average weekly wage.  For claims beginning January 1, 2018, the weekly benefit rate is two-thirds (2/3) of the individual’s average weekly wage, up to $637.  For 2019, the maximum weekly benefit increases to $650.  For intermittent claims, the daily benefit is calculated at one-seventh of the individual’s weekly benefit rate. Beginning July 1, 2020, the individual’s weekly benefit rate will increase to 85% of the individual’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum of 70% of the statewide average weekly wage, for a maximum weekly benefit of $860.

Another change made by the amended law is the elimination of the 7-day waiting period for benefits.

Use of paid time off or other employer paid benefits.  Prior to the law’s amendment, employers were permitted to require employees to use up to two weeks of existing paid time off (PTO), vacation, or other employer-paid leave benefits before using family leave.  This amended law prohibits this action, and allows only the employee to elect whether to use PTO or other similar benefits.  Furthermore, an employee’s use of PTO or similar benefits does not reduce the amount of family leave available to the employee.

Additional information for both workers and employers about the Family Insurance Program is available from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (http://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/labor/myleavebenefits/). 

Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act

The SAFE Act provides job-protections to employees in the event the individual or his/her family member are victims of a domestic violence or sexually violent event.  This law applies to all private and public employers who employ 25 or more employees over 20 weeks in the preceding 12-month period. Employees eligible for the benefit are those who have worked for the employer a minimum of 12 months, and accrued a minimum of 1,000 base hours in 12-month period immediately preceding the need for leave.

The SAFE Act provides that an eligible employee be permitted to take up to 20 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month period should the individual need to obtain medical attention or legal assistance due to situations arising from domestic or sexual violence; or, to care for a family member who was a victim of domestic or sexual violence.  Beginning July 1, 2020, an employee is allowed to use paid family leave during any part of the 20-day period of unpaid leave for such services.

Similar to the expanded definition of family member for purposes of the Family Leave Act (as above), beginning February 19, 2019, the term ‘family member’ includes:

  • A child, whether biological, adopted, foster, step, or a child born via gestational carrier;
  • A spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner;
  • A parent, whether biological, adopted, foster, step, parent-in-law, or a parent via gestational carrier;
  • A sibling;
  • A grandparent or grandchild;
  • Any other individual related by blood to the employee, and
  • Any other individual closely associated with the employee that is equivalent to a family relationship. 

An employer cannot require an employee to use paid time off or other paid leave benefits prior to taking leave under the SAFE Act.

Additional information about the SAFE Act is available from the New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development (http://nj.gov/labor/).


The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

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