New Jersey Must Expand Paid Sick Days During Coronavirus Outbreak

Expanding New Jersey's paid sick days law would support workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Published on Mar 13, 2020 in Economic Justice

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across New Jersey, public health experts are advising those who feel sick to stay home. Fortunately, New Jersey is one of 12 states plus Washington D.C. to guarantee access to earned sick leave, ensuring workers do not lose pay if they call out sick. Of these states, New Jersey is among the few that includes coverage for public health emergencies. All businesses must provide paid leave to employees, with a few exceptions including independent contractors and per diem health workers.

How The Law Works

New Jersey’s Earned Sick and Safe Days Act allows workers to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked, which workers can then use after being on the job for 120 days. Workers can accrue up to 40 hours — or five full days — each year. The law applies to any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company, or other entity with New Jersey-based employees, including a temporary help service firm. Employers of every size are covered, including employers based outside of New Jersey. 

How New Jersey Can Expand Paid Sick Leave Protections

It’s a triumph that New Jersey has this policy in place at this critical moment. But given the magnitude of this public health crisis, New Jersey must take immediate action to further protect its workforce by ramping up efforts to inform employees of their rights and improve the existing earned sick day law. No worker should have to make a choice between going to work sick, putting others at risk of a highly contagious virus, and potentially falling behind on living expenses during these extraordinary circumstances.

NJPP is a proud member of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition, which supports initiatives that make sure working families have paid time off to care for themselves and their families in times of need. Time to Care recommends the following expansion to the Earned Sick and Safe Days Act to help slow the COVID-19 virus and provide financial stability for all New Jersey families.

  • Immediately require 14 additional days of paid sick leave when there is a public health outbreak or emergency. 
  • Remove the 120 day waiting period after an employee’s first day of work to access their accrued paid sick days.
  • Include coverage for workers currently excluded under the law. These include per diem health care workers, independent contractors, construction workers under a union contract, and public employees already receiving paid sick at full pay under another state policy.
  • Remove the ability for employers to require a doctor’s note after 3 days of consecutive absence, and allow for self-certification in lieu of documentation.

New Jersey lawmakers can and should expand the Earned Sick and Safe Day Act immediately, as many workers do not have the ability to work remotely and cannot easily quarantine themselves without fear of losing wages. Making these changes to the law will help prevent unnecessary spread of the COVID-19 virus, mitigate harm to our communities, and provide necessary relief to already stressed health and social systems.