Earlier this year, New Jersey became the third state in the country to pass a law entitling employees to be paid during family leaves. New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance law is set to go into effect in just a few weeks. Since the law is brand new, many employees and employers do not fully understand what the law means or what it requires. This article will answer many of the most frequently asked questions about the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law.
Q. When Does the Family Leave Insurance Law Go Into Effect?
A. On January 1, 2009, New Jersey companies will begin withholding taxes from employee salaries to fund family leave insurance benefits. Starting on July 1, 2009, qualified employees will be entitled to receive state insurance benefits during covered family leaves.
Q. Who is Qualified to Receive Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law applies to all employees who are covered by the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation law. To be qualified for benefits, an employee needs to have worked for at least 20 calendar weeks in New Jersey and either earned at least $143 per week or a total of $7,200 during the 12 months immediately before he or she made a claim for family leave insurance benefits.
Q. For How Many Weeks Can an Employee Receive Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. An employee can receive up to six weeks of family leave insurance benefits during a 12 month period. The 12 month period begins on the first day after the employee’s initial claim for family leave insurance benefits.
Q. How Much Money Will I Receive If I Qualify For Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. An employee’s weekly benefits are normally two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly income over the eight weeks before the family leave, up to a maximum of $546 per week (a figure which will increase over time).
Q. How Much is Family Leave Insurance Going to Cost Me?
A. The cost of Family Leave Insurance is minimal, especially when compared to other taxes. The total withholding for each employee is less than a tenth of a percent of their wages. There is also a maximum annual contribution per person, which will be $26.01 in 2009.
Q. What Types of Leaves Qualify for Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. Leaves to bond with a child and leaves to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Q. What Types of Leaves to Bond With a Child Are Covered by the Paid Family Leave Act?
A. A qualified employee can receive family leave insurance benefits during a leave to bond with a child during the first 12 months after a child is born if the employee is the child’s biological parent or the domestic partner or civil union partner of the child’s biological parent. Likewise, a qualified employee who adopts a child can use his or her six weeks of family leave insurance benefits to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the adoption.
An employee can use family leave insurance benefits during an intermittent leave to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child, but to qualify for benefits the employee must take the leave in periods of at least seven days at a time, and the employer must agree to the employee’s intermittent leave schedule.
Q. What Kinds of Leaves to Care for Family Members with Serious Health Conditions Are Covered by the Paid Family Leave Act?
A. A qualified employee is entitled to use family leave insurance benefits during a leave to care for his or her immediate family member, meaning a parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner who has a serious health condition. Those benefits can be used for six consecutive weeks, six intermittent weeks, or for 42 intermittent days during the 12 months after the claim.
Q. What Notice Must I Give Before I Can Receive Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. An employee who plans to seek family leave insurance benefits must give his or her employer reasonable advanced notice of the leave. Exactly how much notice is required varies based on the circumstances. For example, an employee who intends to seek benefits during an intermittent family leave must give a minimum of 15 days’ notice before the leave, and an employee who plans to seek benefits during a leave to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child must give his or her employer thirty days’ notice before the leave.
Q. Does the Family Leave Insurance Law Entitle Me to Take a Family Leave
A. No. The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law only provides monetary benefits. It does not entitle employees to take family leaves. However, many employees are already legally entitled to those rights under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Q. Does the Family Leave Insurance Law Entitle Employees to Return to Their Job?
A. No. However, some employees are guaranteed to be returned to their job or an equivalent one under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Q. Are There Any Other Limits on an Employee’s Right to Receive Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. Yes. There are many other limits to an employee’s rights to receive family leave insurance benefits. For example, employees ordinarily do not receive family leave insurance benefits during the first seven days of a family leave. In addition, among other limitations, an employee cannot receive family leave insurance benefits:
- While receiving disability benefits or paid sick leave;
- While the employee is receiving unemployment insurance benefits;
- While the employee is receiving full salary or paid time off;
- When the employee is working;
- During the first 14 days after the employee’s last day of work, unless the family leave started while the employee was still employed.
- While the family member for whom the employee is caring is not under the care or supervision of a health care provider;
- While the employee is out of work due to a labor work stoppage, such as a union strike; or
- After the employee is fired for gross misconduct related to a crime under New Jersey law.
Q. Can an Employer Require An Employee to Use Vacation or Sick Time Before Receiving Family Leave Insurance Benefits?
A. Yes. Employers can require employees to use up to two weeks of paid sick leave, vacation time, or other paid leave time toward their annual family leave insurance benefits entitlement.
The employment lawyers at Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg are dedicated to enforcing the employment law and civil rights of employees in New York and New Jersey.