New Jersey is now the 10th state requiring employers to provide paid sick time to their workers. Governor Phil Murphy signed the earned sick leave law in May, and it took effect on October 29.
Both full- and part-time employees can accrue time to use when they are sick, but also for other reasons such as caring for a family member who is sick or attending a child’s school-related meeting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately one third of U.S. workers in the private sector have not had benefits for paid sick time.
While the new law will require additional bookkeeping for businesses, it is viewed as a safety net. The Asbury Park Press quoted Murphy as saying, “New Jerseyans will never have to choose whether to visit a doctor, care for a loved one, or earn a paycheck.”
What the New Law Covers
Employers must provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked (up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually), or they can advance the time at the beginning of the benefit year. Workers may carry a maximum of 40 hours of unused time into the following year, or employers can pay them for those days.
Employees may use the time to care for their own mental or physical health; care for family members (such as child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner); attend a child’s school-related meetings required by school staff members; stay home if the workplace is closed because of a public health emergency; and obtain treatment and services related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
According to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, a business lobby group, protection is provided to employers so that workers do not take advantage of the benefit. They may require employees to wait up to 120 days before using their time; black out particularly busy dates; require seven days’ notice if workers know in advance they will need time off; and require a doctor’s note for employees who are out three or more consecutive work days.