NEW LAW: Important Changes To New Jersey Family Leave Act And The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance Program

On February 19, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed A3975 into law.

In addition to modifying the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance Program (see “NEW LAW: Important Changes To New Jersey Family Leave Act And The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance Program”), this bill modifies and greatly expands the employee leave protections under the  New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) and the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance Program (FLI).

What are the changes that took immediate effect?

Among those changes are the following:

  • The definitions of the following terms have been expanded (the new language is indicated in italics):
    • “Child” means a biological, adopted, foster child, or resource family child, stepchild, legal ward, or child of a parent, who is
      • under 18 years of age; or
      • 18 years of age or older but incapable of self-care because of a mental  or  physical  impairment including  a  child  who  becomes the  child of  a  parent pursuant to  a  valid  written  agreement  between the parent and a gestational carrier
    • “Parent” means   a   person   who   is   the   biological   parent, adoptive  parent, foster  parent, resource  family  parent,  step-parent, parent-in-law or legal guardian, having a “parent-child relationship” with  a  child  as  defined  by  law,  or  having  sole  or  joint  legal  or physical  custody,  care,  guardianship,  or  visitation  with  a  child,  or who  became  the  parent  of  the  child  pursuant  to  a  valid  written agreement between the parent and a gestational carrier
    • “Family member”   means   a   child,   parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, or one partner  in  a  civil  union  couple,  or  any  other  individual  related  by blood  to  the  employee,  and  any  other  individual that  the employee  shows  to  have  a close  association  with  the  employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • “Family leave”  means  leave  from  employment  so  that  the employee may provide care made necessary by reason of:
      • the birth  of  a  child  of  the  employee,  including  a  child  born pursuant  to  a  valid written  agreement  between  the  employee  and  a gestational carrier;
      • the placement of a child into foster care with the employee or in connection with adoption of such child by the employee; or
      • the serious  health  condition  of  a  family  member  of the employee.
    • Employees can take New Jersey Family Leave on an intermittent basis for child-bonding purposes without first obtaining the employer’s consent.
    • Employees are now required to provide 15 days of advance notice (reduced from 30 days) of their need for New Jersey Family Leave – with one exception.
      • Employees must continue to provide 30 days advance notice for continuous bonding leave.
  • Employees are now entitled to a reduced leave schedule for up to 12 consecutive months for any one period of leave, as opposed to 24 consecutive weeks.
  • Employers may no longer require employees to use two weeks of paid time off in lieu of two weeks of NJFLI. Employees may elect to use their available PTO in addition to their NJFLI benefits.

What are the changes that take effect on June 30, 2019?

Effective June 30, 2019, the employers with 30+ employees will be considered “covered employers” for purposes of the New Jersey Family Leave Act and will be required to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave.

An “eligible employee” must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The employee has worked for the Company for at least 12 months;
  • The employee has worked at least a total of 1,000 hours in the 12 months preceding the date of the requested leave; and
  • The requested leave is for one or more of the following reasons:
    • To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition.
    • Birth of a child to the employee or to the employee’s spouse (expires 12 months after birth).
    • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care (expires 12 months after placement).

Employees may not use NJFLA to address their own serious health condition, except childbirth.

What are the changes that take effect on July 1, 2020?

There are several changes that will take effect on July 1, 2020 (primarily relating to NJFLI Benefits).  Among those changes are the following:

  • For any period of leave starting on or after July 1, 2020, employees can receive up to 12 weeks (or 56 days for intermittent leave) of benefits for family temporary disability leave.
  • Employees receiving NJFLI Benefits will be entitled to 85% of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum of 70% of the Statewide average weekly wage.

It is recommended that affected New Jersey employers prepare for these changes.