NJ: Some Business Owners Back Paid Leave

CourierPostOnline — Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON — Five small-business owners spoke out Wednesday in favor of a plan that lawmakers are considering to let workers take up to 10 weeks of paid leave to care for family emergencies.

The five spoke at a news conference organized by liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective in an attempt to spur momentum for the plan and rebut major business groups that have lobbied against the proposal. One of the speakers is an NJPP board member.

Businesses that employ between five and 10 people, the owners said, can't afford to pay workers who need time off for emergencies, but they favor a state program out of a belief that it will keep their employees happy and likely to return after time away.

"If we don't have healthy and focused and nonstressed workers, our businesses are not going to succeed," said Kirsten Scheurer Branigan, a labor lawyer with a 10-person staff.

But the state's largest business groups oppose the plan, saying it would hurt small companies that can't afford to lose workers for extended periods.

"Our concern with paid family leave is that it tries to impose a one-size-fits-all mandate on every employer," said John Rogers, vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which represents 23,000 companies. He said businesses large and small need flexibility to create their own solutions when employees need time off.

A proposal pending in the Legislature would let workers take up to 10 weeks of paid leave for reasons such as family illnesses and new births. The employees would receive two-thirds of their regular salaries, paid for with a payroll tax that would cost workers around $50 a year.

Two business owners at Wednesday's event said the plan would help workers who have families in other countries and must leave for long periods when crises arise.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine hopes the bill can pass the Legislature and become law by the end of the year, said his spokesman, Brendan Gilfillan.

"The governor believes it's important to help workers strike a balance between their job and their family," Gilfillan said.

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