Across the Garden State more than 1 million family caregivers, many who juggle full-time jobs while helping their parents, spouses and other loved ones to remain at home, can now benefit from the state’s newly enacted Paid Sick Leave Act. This new law took effect on Oct. 29, 2018. New Jersey becomes the 10th state in the nation to require employers to provide paid sick leave – a lifesaver for working caregivers in our state.
“There is no reason anyone should have to choose between economic security and their health,” said Governor Phil Murphy in a statement released on May 2, when the legislation was signed into law. “New Jerseyans will no longer have to face such a choice. I am proud to sign into law one of the strongest earned leave protections in the country for every hardworking employee who deserves the basic right of a paid sick day,” said Murphy.
Before the passage of the Paid Sick Leave Act, only 13 municipalities in New Jersey had enacted earned sick leave for private sector employees. Outside of these municipalities, private sector employees did not have any right to receive earned sick leave.
When being considered by New Jersey lawmakers, The Paid Sick Leave Act had broad support from labor, faith-based organizations, anti-poverty advocates, consumer advocates, public policy organizations and small businesses like members of the Main Street Alliance. However, there was opposition from some business coalitions like the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
AARP Continues Efforts to Support Family Caregivers
“AARP New Jersey had been working to pass the legislation for eight years,” says State Director Stephanie Hunsinger. “Yes, we invested significant staff time and resources into passing the law. Enacting supports for family caregivers has and continues to be a high priority for our work at AARP,” she says.
New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Law will ensure that caregivers who also work will not have to expose themselves to financial risks when taking care of a loved one. It requires employers to provide sick leave to their employees to take care of themselves, a family member or someone whose relationship with the employee is equivalent to the family link.
According to Hunsinger, paid sick leave can now be used to care for yourself or a loved one – including someone related by blood, marriage, civil union, or someone whose relationship is like family. Leave can also be used for many circumstances, including when a family member is sick, injured, or has a medical appointment.
In addition, most New Jersey workers are eligible to earn up to 5 sick days per year – an hour for every 30 hours you work, up to a total of 40 hours per year, says Hunsinger.
Hunsinger noted that before the new law took effect, over 1.2 million New Jerseyans did not have access to a single paid sick day. “This commonsense workplace flexibility will allow working family caregivers to take time off to care for a loved one without fear of losing a paycheck or even their job, she says, noting that, This is critical to those families and also to the long-term financial health of the state.”
Caregivers Uncompensated for Care Provided to Loved Ones
“There are 1.3 million family caregivers in New Jersey who provide over $13 billion in unpaid care, helping their loved ones to live at home where they want to be. Family caregivers are the backbone of our long-term services and support system,” adds Hunsinger.
“We have launched a campaign to educate our members and New Jersey caregivers about the law. Look out for the commercials on cable TV, radio interviews with our State President on NJ 101.5, information mailers,” says Hunsinger. Caregivers should also check out www.aarp.org/njcaregiving for more information and a printable information card.