Gov. Jon Corzine and State Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, are pushing a bill that would make New Jersey the third state to offer mandatory paid leave to employees to care for a new child or sick relative.
Sweeney originally proposed 10 weeks of leave, but said in November he would consider cutting that to six weeks if it would get the proposed plan passed. The plan was approved by a Senate committee in June, but then stalled.
The leave would be paid through a charge against wages of about $1 per week per worker. Workers taking the leave would receive up to $502 per week, or about two-thirds of their usual paychecks, whichever is less.
Sweeney, perhaps anticipating backlash from business interests, wrote in a Trenton Times op-ed piece, “There’s no hidden business tax, no secret income tax, no new financial burden on employers. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees don’t even have to save the job of a worker who chooses to take.”
He added that he thought the payroll tax was a fair way to fund leave, and pointed out that almost every employee who would contribute to the fund will, at some point, benefit from it—whether to care for a child or a sick parent.
California was the first state to mandate paid leave for workers to care for family needs. Washington has passed a leave bill granting five weeks of paid leave to workers beginning in October 2009.
Final note: The good news is that the proposal won’t end up costing employers much, especially those that already are covered by the. By taxing employees, similar to the unemployment compensation system, the cost is borne by those who will most benefit.