New Jersey Expands Family Leave Benefits and Temporary Disability Insurance for Those Impacted by the COVID-19 Epidemic


Published: 04.02.2020

When: Effective Immediately

Why: Governor Phil Murphy signed a measure extending temporary disability and family leave benefits allowing more employees access to job-protected paid leave benefits during the current COVID-19 epidemic. The bill also expands New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave law to permit the use of earned sick time for isolation or quarantine recommended or ordered by a provider or public health official as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or to care for a family member under recommended or ordered isolation or quarantine. 

What: The measure amends:
  • the New Jersey Family Leave Earned Leave law which requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits;
  • the New Jersey Family Leave Act of which requires certain employers to provide job-protected leaves of absence to eligible employees, including to care for a family member with a serious medical condition; and t
  • the Temporary Disability Law that provides paid benefits to employees, including for their own non-work-related disabling condition or to care for a family member.
How: The amendment will make benefits available for people who have to self-quarantine or care for loved ones. In addition, the law expands the definition of a “serious health condition” so that more workers would become eligible for benefits during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or other public health authority. The expansion includes an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease.

New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI)  
New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (NJFLI) partially replaces wages for employees who need to care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or bond with a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child. 

NJFLI has expanded its circumstances to include:
  • an employee who is unable to work due to the closure of a school or workplace due to a state of emergency or
  • the presence of the employee or their family would jeopardize the health of others.; or
  • the employee must be isolated or quarantined or must care for a family member who must be quarantined because of exposure to a communicable disease.
NJFLI provides up to 6 weeks of family leave insurance benefits up to two-thirds of one’s average weekly income capped at $667 per week.

Beginning July 1, 2020, the law will allow up to 12 weeks of continuous family leave or 56 days of intermittent leave during a 12-month period. The benefit will increase to 85% of one’s average weekly salary, capped at approximately $881 per week.

New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)
The New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) provides employees working in New Jersey with 12 weeks of job-protected family leave. NJFLA applies to employers with 30 or more employee for each working day for at least 20 or more calendar workweeks in the then current or immediately preceding calendar year. NJFLA allows employees to take leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to foster a child, or for the serious health condition of a family member of the employee.

During a state of emergency or when indicated by a public health authority, the definition of “serious health condition” now includes:
  1. an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease;
  2. an exposure to a communicable disease; or
  3. efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of a family member due to
(i) determination that the individual’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others, and
ii) an isolation or quarantine recommendation or order from a health official or provider. In other words, leave is available to care for someone who must be isolated or quarantined due to an epidemic, such as COVID-19.
Existing provisions which allowed an employer to deny family leave in certain circumstances (to key employees, or where doing so is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury), do not apply when the family leave is due to the need for isolation or quarantine during an epidemic.

New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance Law (NJTDI)
New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance (NJTDI) is paid leave for one’s own non work-related injury, illness or other disability, including pregnancy. NJTDI also covers leave to care for a family member.
 
Consistent with NJFLA, the amendment expands the definition of “serious health condition,” by expanding it to cover illness, isolation, and quarantine due to an epidemic. Individuals taking family temporary disability leave, may take leave to care for family members suffering from accident or sickness.

During a state of emergency as declared by the Governor or when indicated by the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority, “sickness” also includes an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of the employee or family member of the employee due to:  (1) the issuance by a healthcare provider or the commissioner or other public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of the family member or employee may jeopardize the health of others; and (2) the recommendation, direction, or order of the provider or authority that the employee or family member be isolated or quarantined as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease.

The current seven-day waiting period is eliminated making benefits payable as of the first day of the disability for any benefits for illnesses, quarantine, or isolation related to a communicable disease during a state of emergency.

New Jersey Family Leave Insurance & Total Disability Insurance
https://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/labor/myleavebenefits/employer/index.shtml?open=FLI
 
New Jersey Senate No. 2304
https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S2500/2304_I1.PDF

 
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