Pension & Benefits News New Jersey and Colorado expand paid leave programs
Thursday, July 30, 2020

New Jersey and Colorado expand paid leave programs

By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff

Both New Jersey and Colorado have enacted legislation that expand paid leave programs.

New Jersey. As of July 1, 2020, eligible New Jersey workers can take more time off and receive a larger percentage of their wages under the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance and Family Leave Insurance programs, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Under both the Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance programs, eligible workers can now receive up to 85 percent of their average weekly salary, an increase from two-thirds, with a maximum benefit of $881 per week, up from $667.

Workers can also now receive up to 12 consecutive weeks of Family Leave benefits per year, which is double the previous six-week allowance. Workers who take intermittent Family Leave time off can claim up to 56 days, up from the previously permitted 42 days.

Claimants whose first day of leave is July 1 or later are eligible for the expanded benefits.

Earnings qualification. To qualify for Temporary Disability or Family Leave benefits this year, an applicant must have earned at least $200 per week for 20 base weeks, or alternatively, have earned at least $10,000 during the base weeks. Benefit eligibility criteria are based on the state minimum wage in effect on October 1, 2019, when the minimum wage in New Jersey was $10 per hour for most employees.

Leave uses. Workers can use Family Leave to bond with a new child or to care for any loved one who is blood-related or a family-like relation. Temporary Disability can be used for pregnancy, childbirth, or a serious health condition.

Wages subject to taxes. A law enacted last year (Ch. 37 (A. 3975), L. 2019) increased the level of wages subject to wage taxes effective January 1 for workers covered under the Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance programs to fund the increases in benefits. The taxable wage base is $134,900 for 2020 for workers contributing to these programs.

Colorado. On July 14, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law legislation that gives workers in the state the right to paid sick leave, including for COVID-19-related reasons. The coronavirus paid leave, which extends through December 31, 2020, must be provided for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the amounts and for the purposes specified in the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that is part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

On January 1, 2021, however, the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act will require employers in Colorado with more than 15 employees to provide paid sick leave to employees for other reasons, accrued at the rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours.

Public health emergency leave. Starting in 2021, the Act also provides permanent public health emergency leave. The law will require that employers in the state supplement employees’ accrued paid sick leave as needed to make sure that for public health emergency purposes, employees who normally work 40 or more hours per week have at least 80 hours of paid leave. Employers likewise must supplement the accrued leave of employees who work fewer than 40 hours weekly so they may take paid leave for at least the average number of hours they are scheduled to work in a 14-day period, or the average number actually worked in a 14 day period, whichever is greater.

The Act specifies the purposes for which this emergency paid leave may be used, including to self-isolate or care for oneself or a family member due to the diagnosis of communicable illness that is the cause of a public emergency, and to obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment if experiencing such an illness. The paid leave may also be used, among other things, to care for a child whose place of childcare or childcare provider is unavailable due to the public health emergency.

Regular paid sick leave. Under the Act’s regular paid sick leave provisions, employees may use accrued leave for these purposes:

  • The employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; need for a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or need to obtain preventive medical care.
  • The employee’s need to care for a family member who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; the family member’s need for a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or the family member’s need to obtain preventive medical care.
  • The employee or family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and needs to be absent from work for purposes related to such crime.
  • A public official has ordered the closure of the school or place of care of the employee’s child or of the employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency, necessitating the employee’s absence from work.

Other provisions. Among other things, the Act includes confidentiality, anti-retaliation, recordkeeping, and notice-posting requirements.

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