Under a new law effective March 25, 2020, workers in New Jersey are entitled to expanded family leave, earned sick leave and temporary disability insurance benefits during a state of emergency, such as that declared by Governor Murphy for COVID-19.  Here are the details:

Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave

An employee accrues one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours.  The new law expands the reasons a worker can use paid sick time to include:

  • Closure of their workplace or their child’s school because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor;
  • If they are isolated or quarantined, or must care for a family member in quarantine or isolation, because of a suspected exposure to a communicable disease such as COVID-19; and
  • During a state of emergency or as declared by a public health official or determined by a healthcare provider, their presence in the community, or that of a family member the worker is caring for, would jeopardize the health of others.

Family Leave

The new law provides that, during a state of emergency, a worker may take family leave to care for a family member who must be isolated or quarantined during an epidemic of a communicable disease, such as COVID-19.  Existing law is changed in the following ways:

  • During a state of emergency or when determined by public health authorities, the definition of “serious health condition” is expanded to include: illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease; exposure to a communicable disease; or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease.
  • An employee is now entitled to family leave if, because of a “serious health condition”, in-home care of a family member is required due to: a determination that the person’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others; and a healthcare provider or health official has made an isolation or quarantine recommendation or order.

Family Leave Insurance (FLI)

FLI can be used to care for a seriously ill or injured family member and pays out cash benefits for up to six weeks.  The new law allows workers to take FLI leave during a state of emergency to care for a family member who has a communicable disease like COVID-19.  A healthcare provider or public health authority must recommend or order that a family member self-isolate or self-quarantine because of actual or suspected exposure. 

Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI)

Employers can either choose the state’s plan for their employees or offer a state-approved private plan.  The state plan provides benefits up to 26 weeks per period of disability.  The new law provides that workers can take TDI if a healthcare provider or public health authority recommends that the worker or their family member self-isolate or quarantine because of disease.  The law also eliminates the one-week waiting period if their temporary disability is because of these health emergency reasons.  

These changes in the law are permanent and not limited to the current COVD-19 crisis.