COVID-19 Impact: New Jersey Giving Employees Greater Access to Family Leave Insurance, Disability Benefits

By Janîce Malcolm-Beeker
 
To help ease the financial impacts on New Jersey employees who cannot work due to COVID-19 because of personal illness, quarantine, or family caregiving, the state updated its laws providing greater access to Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance Benefits (TDB).
 
New Jersey is one of several states that has made urgent changes to existing law in order to provide financial relief and job protection for employees during an unprecedented wave of workplace absence. For the millions of U.S. employees suddenly unable to work due to precautionary measures such as quarantine and self-isolation, or the need to stay home with a child whose school or daycare is closed, these emergency laws are intended to mitigate the impact.
 
On March 25, 2020, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation amending New Jersey’s TDB Law effective on that date. Just over two weeks thereafter on April 14, 2020, Governor Murphy once again amended New Jersey law to provide further clarification on these special entitlements. New Jersey’s legislation not only addresses the immediate challenges brought on by COVID-19, but provides a framework for responses to other communicable diseases that may arise during a future public health emergency. The provisions are specifically triggered for TDB and FLI when the employee is unable to work, including telework, and:
 
  • The Governor declares a state of emergency, or as ordered by a public health authority, and
  • A healthcare provider or public health authority determines that an individual’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others and recommends or orders a quarantine or isolation due to suspected exposure to a communicable disease.
During the COVID-19 crisis, employees unable to work due to these triggers may be eligible for TDB or FLI under the updated laws that:
 
  • Expand the meaning of a “disability” and “family leave” to include illnesses and quarantines caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease.
  • Waive the one-week waiting period for TDB for this new reason and allow eligible employees to take TDB if they are ill, exposed to the disease, or are required to stay home for treatment to help prevent spread of the disease.
  • Allow eligible employees to take FLI if they need to care for a family member who is seriously ill or who must be quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • Make employees eligible with the same triggers, for unpaid, job-protected Leave under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) if they need to care for a family member who is seriously ill, who must be quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 precautions, or to care for a child due to closure of the school or childcare center by order of a public official.
  • Allow employees to use earned Sick Leave if a public health emergency requires the closure of the employee’s workplace or the closure of the school or childcare center of the employee’s child, or if the employee or family member under their care is quarantined or isolated based on the direction of a healthcare provider or public health authority.
Separately, if an employee’s workplace is ordered closed or the school or childcare center of the employee’s child is ordered closed, the employee may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance.
 
It’s important to note that while eligibility and access to Leave have been expanded, benefits and duration of Leave did not change under the amended TDB law. For eligible employees, the benefits will continue to be:
 
  • Six weeks of FLI, increasing to 12 weeks for qualifying Leaves effective on or after July 1, 2020.
  • 42 days of intermittent FLI, increasing to 56 days for qualifying Leaves effective on or after July 1, 2020.
  • Wage replacement for both TDB and FLI is two-thirds (67%) of the state’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW) up to $667/week. That increases to 85% of the AWW up to $881/week for qualifying Leaves effective on or after July 1, 2020.
  • For more details, please visit NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The New Jersey Leave changes come on the heels of the sweeping federal law – Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is designed to assist workers impacted by COVID-19. The federal Act took effect April 1, 2020 and requires employers with fewer than 500 employees and many government employers to provide emergency Paid Sick Leave and paid FMLA to eligible employees. As of this writing, it appears that New Jersey employees who receive emergency Paid Sick Leave from their employers under the federal Act cannot receive NJ TDB benefits at the same time. For the expanded federal FMLA paid benefit for school or childcare closures, there is no overlap of Leave reasons with the New Jersey TDB provisions.
 
In this challenging time for all, The Hartford is here to support you and will continue to monitor this changing Leave law landscape to provide you with current information and insight. Visit our NJ FLI and TDB page, and learn more on our COVID-19 Leave Law Guide.
 

About the Author

An attorney for more than 20 years, The Hartford’s Assistant General Counsel Janîce Malcolm-Beeker has extensive knowledge and compliance experience in health, Disability and Leave insurance and administration, particularly in FMLA, ERISA and Disability management.
 
 
7789 NS 07/20
This informational material is subject to change as The Hartford continues to receive guidance from states and municipalities. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for legal compliance with respect to an employer’s business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute The Hartford’s undertaking on a company’s behalf, or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that an employer’s business operations are in compliance with any law, rule, or regulation. Employers seeking resolution of specific legal or business issues, questions, or concerns regarding this topic should consult their own attorney or business advisors; and employees should continue to consult their employers’ Human Resources or other employment benefits department for guidance on the application of any law, rule, or regulation.
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