The New Jersey Legislature recently enacted a revision to this State's current Family Leave Act ("FLA"), which already provides that an employee is entitled up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for illness of a family member. The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act was enacted in late 2008, and becomes effective in July, 2009. It provides that an employee who needs care for an ill spouse, child or parent can now receive up to six weeks of pay during the course of that 12 week leave.
Under the new law, an employee who qualifies for a FLA leave will be afforded a payment of up to $525 per week for six weeks of the leave. The weekly payment is based upon a percentage of the employee's salary. The program is financed through a small payroll tax which is already being levied upon each employee in the State.
A qualifying employee may first be required to utilize other paid leave time, such as sick time or vacation time, for the first two weeks of the leave before the paid portion of the leave would be triggered. For example, an employee who requests twelve weeks to care for an unborn child, and who has significant vacation time available, could utilize the leave as follows. The employer could require that vacation time be used for the first two weeks of leave. The next six weeks could be taken as paid leave under the amended law. The remaining four weeks could be taken as either paid or unpaid leave, depending upon the policies of the employer and the availability of additional sick or vacation time on the books of the employee.
In order to qualify for family leave, it is important to follow the applicable procedures promulgated by the employer. Generally speaking, leaves should be requested at least 30 days in advance and be supported by adequate medical documentation. The employee should also insure that the employer has recieved all necessary forms and issued the appropriate approvals to avoid misunderstandings when the leave begins. Discussion with the human resource office is usually the best first stop, and any request should always be put in writing.