Family Leave Expansion Would Advance Equity and Eliminate Fear of Retaliation for All of New Jersey’s Workers

Testimony from NJPP Senior Policy Analyst Peter Chen in support of lowering the work requirement for Family Leave to 90 days.

Published on Dec 1, 2023 in Economic Justice

Every worker in New Jersey deserves the right to take paid family leave to bond with a new child or care for a loved one. No worker should fear losing their job to care for their ill parent, or spend precious weeks with a newborn. Certainly something as arbitrary as the size of their employer should not dictate whether they can take family leave without fear of discipline or termination.

As NJPP’s June 2023 report More Than One in Five New Jersey Workers Can Still Be Fired for Taking Paid Family Leave noted, over 800,000 workers in New Jersey can be fired for taking family leave. This should never be the case.

A-5611 takes a step towards protecting this right, but the proposed amendment to the bill still leaves businesses with fewer than 5 employees unprotected – nearly 200,000 workers or 5 percent of the total workforce.

Additionally, the Family Leave Act still has gaps for coverage for workers with less than 1,000 hours worked in the last 12 months or workers who have worked for their employer for less than one year. Roughly 400,000 New Jersey workers — or 10 percent of the workforce — worked fewer than 1,000 hours and therefore did not get job protection. Workers with fewer hours nonetheless need job protection to take time to care for their loved ones.

One recent federal proposal, the Job Protection Act, would eliminate the hours requirement and reduce the tenure requirement to 90 days for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Job protection alone also does not solve the many remaining gaps in coverage in the paid family leave insurance program (FLI). The comprehensive A-5703 addresses many of these concerns in one package that should move alongside A-5611 to ensure that all workers who have an ill loved one or new child to bond with have access to paid time off of work.

Without adequate job protection for all workers and other program improvements detailed in A-5703, family leave runs the risk of becoming a luxury product for higher-income workers, rather than a benefit that all workers can use. Every worker in New Jersey should be able to take family leave without fear of economic penalties.

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