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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Paid family leave bill passes

Paid family leave legislation was passed into law Monday following a 22 to 15 Senate vote.

The result of yesterday’s Senate session makes New Jersey the third state in the country to provide paid benefits to workers caring for newborn or newly adopted children, or sick family members.

“I sponsored this legislation as a father, who understands the urgency of this type of leave time for working families, because I was in a similar situation 14 years ago when my daughter Lauren was born four months premature,” said Senate Majority Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, earlier this month. “My boss understood and allowed me to take off the time I needed, but I can’t imagine having to choose between spending time with my daughter who was clinging to life, and going to work to be able to put food on the table for my wife and then four-year-old son.”

The law provides up to six weeks of paid family leave during any year-long period, with employees being eligible to receive up to two-thirds of their weekly salary, or up to $524 a week.

The measure makes employees use up all available maternity or disability leave time prior to going onto paid family leave, in addition to two weeks of sick leave and vacation time.

Supporters of the bill noted that the vast majority of New Jersey residents supported the legislation, according to an Eagleton Research Poll conducted earlier this year.

Funding for the legislation comes mainly through a .14 percent contribution from employee paychecks in the state Disability Fund. From these funds would go into a special account earmarked solely for expenditure on employees going on paid family leave.

“The decision of having to work to make ends meet and spending precious time with a newborn child is one that far too many mothers and fathers have had to deal with over the years,” said Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex. “By passing this legislation, we are ensuring that New Jersey puts the needs of families on par with the needs of business.”

The legislation passed yesterday for the second time this year, with some minor revisions by the State Assembly requiring an additional vote on the Paid Family Leave legislation.

Now it will be up to Gov. Jon S. Corzine to sign the bill into law, which he is expected to do.

Paycheck contributions would then begin on Jan. 1, 2009.

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