The Star-Ledger

Lawmakers Should Approve Paid Leave

The Express-Times — Friday, November 23, 2007

Treat workers fairly

New Jersey can't afford to pull the plug on its latest and best effort to provide paid leave to workers who need time off to care for newborns or sick relatives.

State Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has crafted a workable bill that faces extinction if no action is taken before the start of the new legislative session Jan. 8.

Sweeney, who has made numerous concessions to keep the bill alive, said recently he's willing to make one more – trimming paid leave from 10 weeks to six.

One of the major complaints from the business world has been the challenges they would face losing workers for long stretches of time. This pared-down proposal should ease and, in some cases, eliminate that concern.

Previous concessions have included allowing employers with 50 workers or less to inform those who take advantage of paid leave that they wouldn't be guaranteed the same positions when they return.

The largest hurdle – who pays for the leave – was overcome during the initial drafting stages of the bill.

Under the plan, paid leave would be financed through an employee-funded pool of money. The money would come from the state's temporary disability insurance fund and would cost most workers about $1 a week more. Workers would be eligible for up to $502 per week, depending on their salaries.

If the bill is approved, New Jersey would become the third state in the country with this benefit, after California and Maryland.

The Garden State has been recognized far too many times nationwide for less-than-desirable accomplishments, including having the highest property taxes in the country and a reputation for more crooked politicians per capita than many of its counterparts.

Passing the paid family leave bill would distinguish New Jersey as a state that treats its workers fairly and compassionately.

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