BY MARTI CARDI, VP-PRODUCT COMPLIANCE
As the first state to enact a mandated paid family leave law in 2009, New Jersey was the leader in this now-burgeoning field. Currently, there are 4 states with PFL laws (CA, NJ, NY, RI), 3 more jurisdictions with new laws in the process of being implemented (DC, MA, WA), and 22 states (and counting) that have introduced PFL bills in 2019.
Not resting on its early accomplishments, New Jersey has now enacted a bill (AB 3975, the “Act”) that brings substantial changes and increased coverage to the state’s existing Family Leave Act (NJ FLA), the Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act), and the paid family leave insurance program (NJ FLI). Signed by Governor Murphy on February 19, 2019, some of the changes were effective immediately and others phase in later in 2019 and 2020.
Changes Galore. The Act is lengthy and makes many changes to New Jersey’s FLA, SAFE Act, and FLI – far more than we can cover in this post. To make it easier to view the changes in context, here is a link to a chart that provides a comparison of the basic provisions of each law. Changes are shown in red, bold italics. Removed provisions are shown as such: as strike-through text. All changes are effective immediately unless otherwise noted.
- Covered relationships. The Act effects a significant expansion of the types of family relationships for which
employees can take leave or receive benefits pursuant to the NJ FLA, SAFE Act, and NJ FLI. This includes
not only added relationships, but also removal of the age limit for care of a covered child with a serious
health condition under NJ FLA and NJ FLI. One good result is that covered relationships for whom an
employee can take leave or receive benefits are now uniform across all 3 laws. (Effective immediately.)
- Lower threshold for covered employers. More employers will be required to provide job-protected leave
under the NJ FLA, as the coverage threshold decreases from employers with 50 or more employees to those
with 30 or more employees. (Effective June 30 or July 1, 2019 – the Act has conflicting provisions regarding
- SAFE Act leave now eligible for benefits. Employees who are, or whose family member is, a victim of
domestic or sexual violence can now receive FLI benefits for leaves taken for reasons relating to such events.
- Increase in weeks of FLI benefits. Employees will be able to take more paid leave, as the FLI benefits period
increases from 6 weeks to 12 weeks, or from 42 days to 56 days if taken intermittently. (Effective for leaves
commencing on or after July 1, 2020.)
- Elimination of waiting period. There will no longer be a 7-day waiting period before an employee can receive
paid leave; rather, benefits will start on the first day of a covered leave. (Effective for leaves commencing on or
after July 1, 2019.)
- Increase in benefits payments. Currently, employee benefits under FLI are paid at 2/3 of an employee’s average
weekly remuneration (AWR), subject to a cap at 53% of the statewide AWR. In 2020 benefits will increase to
85% of the employee’s AWR, capped at 70% of the statewide AWR. (Effective for leaves commencing on or after
July 1, 2020.) These changes also apply to the state temporary disability benefits.
- Increase in “wages” measurement. For calendar years beginning on and after January 1, 2020, an employee’s
“wages” for purposes of contributions to the NJ temporary disability and paid family leave programs will increase
from 52 times to 107 times the NJ statewide AWR, rounded up to the next higher multiple of $100.
This rate will be determined as of September 1 each year, to be effective the following January 1.
- Private plans. A private plan no longer requires approval by a majority of the employees to be covered by the plan
unless the employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement that does not expressly waive the
employees’ right to a majority election as a condition of the plan. (Effective immediately.)
Employers can obtain more information and state assistance at the New Jersey Division of Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance website. The site is not yet up to date with the changes brought by the Act but nonetheless has helpful resources.
Matrix is ready! Matrix is up to date and is managing leaves and benefits under the New Jersey Family Leave Act, SAFE Act, and Family Leave Insurance program in accordance with the new changes. If we are administering state leaves of absence and/or the NJ paid family leave for your company the transition will be seamless and your employees will receive the leaves they are entitled to. For those employers using the NJ state paid leave program, our initial information packets to employees will continue to instruct them to file for FLI with the state.