NJ Advocates applaud bill greatly improving access to NJ Family Leave

Too many New Jersey workers who pay into program lack the job protection they need to take paid leave

Trenton—Advocates from the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition applauded the introduction of S4504, which will provide job protection to all New Jersey workers who take paid family leave and introduce other vital reforms to the state’s paid leave program. Currently, more than one in five New Jersey workers can still be fired for taking paid family leave, even though nearly all New Jersey workers pay into the program.  

“This bill, S4054, will address barriers and gaps that prevent workers from being able to take paid leave when they need it the most,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Linda Greenstein, who introduced the bill yesterday. “We know that paid leave without a job guarantee has prevented countless workers from taking their benefits because they fear losing their jobs. This bill will address the vital issue of job protection and make other important improvements to our paid leave program, ensuring New Jersey workers are not forced to choose between their jobs or their health and caregiving needs.” 

“The majority of other states with a paid leave program also include job protection when taking paid leave benefits,” said bill co-sponsor Senator Joe Cryan. “New Jersey must do better with a program that is meant to protect all workers who pay into it. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to advance this bill, which will give New Jersey workers the paid family leave program they deserve.” 

New Jersey’s paid leave program, Family Leave Insurance, was signed into law in 2008 and expanded in 2019 to support the health, well-being, and economic stability of New Jersey working families. The program enables workers to take paid leave when they need time off to bond with new children, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with issues related to domestic or sexual violence, or recover from a disabling condition.    

Nearly all New Jersey workers contribute their earnings to New Jersey’s paid leave programs, but up to 35% could lose their job if they take the paid leave they help fund. The program is also underutilized; in 2021, approximately 3.7 million NJ workers were covered by paid family leave and only 68,475 claims were filed. 

The lack of job protection particularly impacts low-wage workers, who essentially subsidize paid leave for higher earners. Low-wage workers are far less likely to be covered by job protection laws because they work for small employers, work part-time jobs, or switch jobs more frequently. They also report a greater fear of losing their job than high-wage earners. Low earners are therefore far less likely to take paid leave than high-wage earners, who take leave at much higher rates. 

“New Jersey has fallen behind other states’ paid leave policies and this bill will help to fulfill the promise of paid leave for all of our workers,” said Yarrow Willman-Cole, representing the NJ Time to Care Coalition and New Jersey Citizen Action.  “We thank the bill’s champions, Senator Greenstein and co-sponsor Senator Cryan, for the introduction of this important piece of legislation. Increasing access and equity to paid leave will help improve the health and well-being of all New Jersey workers and their loved ones, regardless of what they earn or where they work.” 

“We thank Senator Greenstein and Senator Cryan for being strong advocates for working people in New Jersey and urge our Legislature to move this bill forward,” said Debbie White, RN, President of HPAE. “Expanding family leave allows workers to take time off to care for their family without the threat of financial strain.”

“CWA Local 1036 would like to thank bill sponsors Senators Linda Greenstein and Joe Cryan.  It is only fair that workers paying into the family leave program can access their benefits without the fear of losing their jobs as a result.  Without this protection, workers are paying for something they truly cannot utilize,” said Michele Liebtag, Political & Education Director at CWA Local 1036.

 “The proposed changes to the law will fill in the job protection gaps outlined in our report,” said Becky Logue-Conroy PhD, Research Analyst with Rutgers Center for Women and Work.  “Around a third of workers did not have their job protected by the NJFLA because they worked for a company that was too small. These changes fill that gap by offering job protection to all workers who qualify for wage replacement. These tend to be workers with lower wages, so this legislation will help those with lower wages to take leave without worrying about whether their job is protected.” 

 “The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence is thankful to Senator Greenstein and Senator Cryan for sponsoring and introducing S4054.  Nearly all domestic violence survivors suffer from financial abuse,” said Calandria Resende, Policy Coordinator with the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “Economic justice for survivors is having job protection while trying to plan for safety and survival for themselves and their children. One of the most significant barriers for survivors to access paid leave is the fear of losing their jobs, in many cases, their only source of income.” 

“We believe this is a critical piece of legislation to remove the hurdles to access for those New Jersey families who have up to this date not been afforded or fearful of taking this life-changing benefit,” said Peg Kinsell, Policy Director, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network. “Full access and job protection are long overdue.”

For more on the Coalition policy recommendations which are in the draft legislation visit this page.