As of 2019, the United States offers no guarantee of paid maternity leave. In comparison, every other developed country in the world provides some amount of paid leave for new moms. Not only that, but most of these countries offer a minimum of three months of pay for a mother to recover from birth and care for her newborn. Unlike other countries, not all of our laws are decided on a national level. Not everything is aligned state-by-state, so you might be wondering if your state covers the bill to ensure financial stability for postpartum mothers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them don’t. That is unless you live in one of four states that do require paid maternity leave. One of which is New Jersey.
If you or someone you know is an expectant mother or father with ties to New Jersey, read on to find out your maternity and paternity leave benefits. It can be tricky trying to figure out what you are entitled to, so we have you covered!
New Jersey, New Parents
As of 2015, the Department of Labor estimates that only around 12 percent of private employees can access paid family leave. This is alarmingly low considering the United States offers no paid benefits to new parents. The parents then have no choice but for one of them to go immediately back to work (usually the father), while the other is sacrificing pay to care for their newborn. New Jersey recognized this shortfall. Not only was it clear that families were suffering, but offering paid family leave is proven to help the economy as well. In 2009, they became the second state (behind California) to offer paid family leave.
Before that, maternity leave had begun to evolve into family leave. This not only considered a mother who needed recovery after birth but also that both parents needed bonding time with their new child. New Jersey implemented a program designed to supplement parents’ lost income from not working after having a baby. Three separate programs are utilized for new families in New Jersey. Families will be happy to know that each program received increased coverage, some of which begins this year.
Here we will outline each of the New Jersey programs and what you can expect for current and future coverage in both pay and job protection.
The New Jersey Family Leave Act is very similar to the United States’ Family and Medical Leave Act. Its purpose is to ensure that parents can take an absence to be with their child with no ramifications regarding job status. Beginning in July 2019, many more New Jersey companies will be required to offer NJFLA. This is because legislation is now including companies with 30 or more employees as opposed to 50 or more.
Eligibility: If eligible, both moms and dads can count on job security while taking time away from work to care for their new family member. The following requirements are:
- 12 months of employment with current employer
- 1,000 hours worked in the 12 months prior to when the leave begins
- Work for an employer with 50 or more employees (through June 30, 2019); 30 or more employees (starting on July 1, 2019)
Pay: Unpaid. This particular program is enstated for job protection, as well as maintenance of health insurance. Employees may be entitled to other pay benefits while on leave.
Period of Leave: New moms and dads may take up to 12 work weeks in two years. The weeks may be taken to bond with a newborn, adopted child or child in foster care. Something great to note about NJ FLA is that the weeks don’t need to be taken all together. Both continuous and intermittent leave are honored, and a reduced scheduled is also allowed if used within the first 12 months. (When leave is foreseeable, the employer is entitled to notification 30 days in advance.)
New parents living in New Jersey will be happy to know that all employers in their state are required to offer paid family leave. The pay is not 100% but is significant when compared to states that offer no compensation whatsoever. All employees pay into this state-funded program. Currently, this insurance program entitles the new parent to 6 weeks of partial-pay, but by mid-year 2020, the period of time will double to 12 weeks. It looks like July of next is a good time to have a baby for New Jersey Moms!
Eligibility: In the 12 months before a claim, an employee must have:
- Worked at least 20 weeks and earned at least $172 per week, OR
- Earned at least $8,500
Pay: Until July 2020, new parents can receive six weeks of benefits equal to two-thirds of their pay. The current cap is $637 per week.
The new bill signed by Governor Phil Murphy (to begin July 2020) will offer up to 12 weeks of pay. The pay will significantly increase, with a cap at $859 per week. Some employees will be able to earn up to 85% of their wage. (It’s important to note that you cannot receive pay through this insurance benefit if you are receiving disability benefits.)
Period of Leave: Until July of 2020, parents can take six weeks of paid leave (with the other six unpaid and covered through NJ FLA). After that date, 12 weeks will be the maximum period of paid leave for moms and dads. The leave does not have to be taken all at once; it can be split up throughout the 12 months if the employee desires. (Advance notice to the employer is required when possible.)
Unlike New Jersey’s Family Leave benefits, disability insurance only covers mothers. Its purpose is to cover wages lost due to a new mother during her recovery period. A very small deduction is made from each employee’s paycheck.
Eligibility: TDI benefits are available to women both while they are pregnant and after they deliver, provided a doctor deems them unable to perform their job.
Pay: An eligible mother is paid two-thirds of her average weekly wage. The maximum amount is currently $637 per week. The pay increases outlined for Paid Family Leave effective in 2020 apply to TDI, as well.
Period of Leave: For a mother to receive benefits through TDI, a doctor must determine that she is unable to work. Pregnancy disability generally begins around the 36-week mark for an expectant mother, extending to 6 – 8 weeks after delivery. Not all moms will require disability leave prior to birth, but new moms usually are granted six weeks post-partum for a natural delivery. Disability Insurance is not provided for longer than 26 weeks.
2020 Will Be a Great Year for New Moms and Dads
The financial impact of having a baby can be significant when new parents have to go without pay. New Jersey is ensuring that new moms, dads, and babies are well taken care of through the three comprehensive programs they provide. Beginning mid-year 2020, new and expectant parents will be entitled to significantly more coverage and pay. Hopefully, New Jersey is setting a precedent and more states will begin to offer moms and dads paid family leave to bond with their newborns.
To see all future updates to the programs offered in New Jersey, this document outlines the specifics. If New Jersey isn’t your home state, check out our other post to find out your maternity leave rights by state.