If you are an employer in New Jersey, take note. You will now have to provide your employees with paid sick leave, as the state has joined several others in making this a law. There is now one uniform law for paid sick leave throughout the state. Here is what you need to know about the new law:
How Much Paid Sick Leave Must You Provide?
Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work. This can be capped at 40 hours per year. The accrual is for a "benefit year" which can be any period of time that totals 12 consecutive months. Once you establish the benefit year, you cannot change it without first notifying the New Jersey Department of Labor.
If keeping track of paid sick leave time for each employee is accruing is too difficult, you can consider providing the full 40 hours of paid sick leave time at the beginning of the benefit year. You should also know that if you already have paid time off or "PTO" policies, these may already satisfy the requirements of the new law.
May Employees Carry Over Unused Sick Leave into the Next Benefit Year?
The law does allow employees to carry over accrued but unused paid sick leave into the following year unless you offer to pay the employee for the unused earned sick leave in the final month of the benefit year and the employee accepts such offer. Employers may limit the amount of sick leave carried over from one benefit year to the next to 40 hours.
Is There Any Waiting Period?
While employees are allowed to accrue sick leave immediately upon starting employment, you can prohibit the actual use of any sick leave until 120 calendar days from the start of their employment have passed.
Does is Apply to Small Businesses?
Yes it does. The law applies to all employers in New Jersey regardless of size. The only exceptions are for per diem health care workers, construction workers employed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, and public employees who already have paid sick leave benefits.
Does it Apply to Part-Time Employees?
Yes. There is nothing differentiating between full-time and part-time employees. The amount of paid sick time available is based on the amount of hours worked.
How is "Sick Leave" Defined?
Sick leave is very broadly defined. It may be used for the following circumstances:
- Time needed for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee's mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care for the employee.
- Caring for a family member who needs time for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, a mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care.
- Time needed as a result of an employee or a family member being a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
- Time needed because there is a closure of the workplace, or of a school, or childcare facility by order of a public official because of a public health concern.
- Time needed to attend a school-related conference, meeting, function, or other event requested or required by a school responsible for the education of the employee's child.
- Time needed to attend a meeting regarding care provided to the child of an employee in connection with the child's health conditions or disability.
Who Qualifies as a "Family Member" Under the New Law?
Family members include a child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, and grandparent. However, it also includes anyone "whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship." Based on the nature of the relationship with the person for whom an employee may be providing care, you should always be very cautious before denying time off in such a situation.
Can an Employer Require Notice or Documentation from Employees?
You may require that employees provide advance notice of not more than seven calendar days before using sick leave if the leave is foreseeable. If unforeseeable, then employees need only provide as much notice as practicable.
If the sick leave exceeds three or more consecutive days, you may then require that employees provide reasonable documentation to show that the leave is actually eligible leave under this new law.
Must I Maintain Records and Provide Any Notice?
You must maintain documents showing the hours worked and the amount of sick leave used by employees for a period of five years. You must also post notices in the workplace regarding the new law, and must provide individual notices to each employee. This must be done within thirty days after the Department of Labor issues the notification. It must then be done at the time of each employee's hire.
When is the New Law Effective?
The new law will go into effect October 29, 2018.
What Should I Be Doing Now?
You may already provide some paid sick time, although as noted above, sick leave time under the new law is broadly defined. If you already offer sick leave (or other paid leave) you should determine how the new leave law will dovetail with your existing policies and make any changes and adaptations necessary to make sure they do. If you do not offer paid time off in any form, you will need to implement a compliant policy.