The Times, Trenton

Family Matter

The Times of Trenton — Sunday, December 2, 2007


Life in the workaday world sometimes feels like this: Madly pedaling a unicycle while holding twin poles topped with stacks of dishes in a deft display of balance like one of those amazing acrobats on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But even the most talented multitasker can be tripped up by events that cannot be practiced for or even anticipated.

A baby's birth, a child's lingering illness, a parent's descent into dementia – these circumstances require immediate and undivided attention. They also require time away from the job, which may present a financial burden and add to an already stressful situation.

The New Jersey Paid Family Leave legislation, which may be considered this week by two Assembly panels, seeks to address those needs in a meaningful way.

The plan is to deduct up to 90 cents a week from each employee's pay to fund an insurance pool. If there is a medically sanctioned reason, an employee would be granted up to 10 weeks of leave, and the pool would be tapped to pay that employee two-thirds of his or her weekly salary up to $500.

The law would apply to all employers; those with fewer than 50 employees would not have to hold a leave-taking worker's job open.

Still, some business groups, such as the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, remain opposed to the measure. They see it as an unnecessary intrusion, an instance of government attempting to manipulate their ways and means.

We have another perspective. We see it as a logical and necessary next step following the federally mandated family leave law.

That law, in place for more than a decade, hasn't brought New Jersey's industry to a grinding halt. And neither will this initiative to make the Gar den State the third in the nation to recognize that the workplace is changing along with the society that powers it.

The measure is a fair and equitable one, financed by the employees who would benefit from it.

What's more, there is a groundswell of support for paid family leave; The Eagleton Center for Public Interest found 78 percent of those polled in favor while only 16 percent are op posed.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Deptford, told the Associated Press that he might be willing to cut the proposed paid leave to six weeks if that helps get it passed. That's down from the original plan's 12 weeks and demonstrates a willingness to compromise that ought to be echoed by the plan's oppo nents.

Before this session ends, we urge legislators to get their lame ducks in a row and pass the bill.

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