Pregnancy and Maternity Leave for New Jersey Employees
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If you're a pregnant New Jersey employee and interested in what your maternity leave, pregnancy and parental leave rights are, you may be confused about how much maternity leave in NJ you can take. However, you're actually luckier than most American women who are not protected with pay under maternity leave laws, and only receive unpaid family leave under a federal law called FMLA.
You live in one of the three states in the United States that guarantees women a partially paid maternity leave under the state's Family Leave Insurance program, which is provided under New Jersey's Temporary Disability Benefits Law.
Disclaimer: We tried very hard to summarize what the high level points we think you should know if you're a pregnant, working woman in New Jersey. However we're not attorneys and we don't claim to have covered every single detail, so please check New Jersey's Department of Labor website for complete information.
What is Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) in New Jersey and How Does It Apply to Me?
If you're unable to work due to medical complications related to your pregnancy or childbirth, you may receive temporary disability benefits to cover a portion of your lost wages. In a normal pregnancy, the applicable period of eligibility for these disability payments typically begin 4 weeks prior to delivery, and 6 weeks after childbirth (or 8 weeks in the case of a C-section delivery). You may be eligible for TDI over a longer period if a doctor certifies that you have experienced complications or are still unable to physically perform your job.
What is Family Leave Insurance (FLI) in New Jersey?
Most New Jersey employees are eligible for FLI which provides up to 6 weeks of partially paid leave for the period of time you wish to bond with a newborn baby (or adopted child). Since FLI and TDI are different and distinct, you may qualify for both TDI and FLI. Note, however, that TDI requires a medical diagnosis demonstrating that you are unable to work due to pregnancy or medical complications. TDI benefits related to pregnancy are treated like any other short-term disability in New Jersey and you learn more about that here.
This Sounds Great. How is FLI Possible?
FLI benefits are fully employee-funded, which means that a small portion of your paychecks are withheld from all New Jersey employees making over a certain amount, in order to pay for FLI benefits.
How Much Do I Receive Under TDI and FLI Benefits?
Your FLI and TDI benefits are calculated in the same way. What you will receive is based on the average of your weekly pay for the prior 8 weeks. You are entitled to approximately 2/3 of this average weekly pay (up to a maximum of $633 per week as of 2017). The amount is approximate because you will not see state taxes withheld from your benefits payments (unlike your normal paycheck). The schedule of maximum payments is updated periodically, so you should check with the NJ Department of Labor for the latest information.
Family Leave Insurance Benefits: Eligibility and Other Details
We aren't going to reproduce the information and full details available on New Jersey's DOL website, but we've highlighted a few key facts:
- You must have been paid at least $8,400 in the prior year or worked for 20 weeks (earning a minimum of $168 during each of those weeks) in New Jersey. For more about eligibility, click here.
- If your employer pays for your maternity leave, you will not also be able to receive FLI benefits at the same time. You may, however, receive FLI benefits concurrently with any private short-term disability payments you are receiving.
- If you receive any other government benefits (e.g. unemployment insurance or worker's compensation benefits), you will typically not be eligible for FLI benefits at the same time.
- FLI benefits must be taken during the first year of your baby's life and must be taken in chunks of 7 consecutive days (unless your employer agrees otherwise).
- You must give your employer at least 30 days notice that you will be taking FLI leave. If you don't, your benefits may be reduced by 14 days.
- Employers may require you to use a maximum of 2 weeks of sick leave or paid time off (such as your vacation) at full pay concurrently during the FLI leave period. If they do, you will not be able to receive FLI benefits for the maximum 6 weeks (and will only receive 4 weeks of benefits). Moreover, when you do come back to work, you will have 2 fewer weeks of paid time off.
- There is a waiting period (7 calendar days) before you can start to receive FLI benefits. If your employer requires that you use your fully paid time off to count towards your FLI leave, you can apply that paid-time off towards your waiting period. Moreover, if you are using TDI and FLI consecutively, no second 7-day waiting period applies between the two.
If for some reason you do not qualify for family leave insurance you always can try to take out private short-term disability insurance policies privately if your employer does not offer a paid leave policy or short-term disability benefits to employees. Technically, a short term disability policy will cover any health conditions that provide at least partial wage replacement in case you cannot work due to a health condition or medical problem, though pregnant employees commonly use short-term disability insurance benefits to help bridge unpaid periods during the period immediately after birth and for physical recovery and parental leave before they return to work. One important thing to note is that there is application and claim process to apply for short-term disability benefits that involves a doctor's note confirming your condition renders you unable to work.
What is the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)?
FLI does not protect your job, which is where New Jersey's Family Leave Act comes in. This law requires certain employers give you up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave every 24 months and protects your job while you're gone. While the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which we've written about here offers similar protections, the NJFLA applies to more people since it applies to employers who have 50 or more global employees (as opposed to 50 employees within a 75 mile radius under the FMLA. You're eligible for NJFLA if you've worked at your company for at least 12 months and clocked a minimum of 1,000 hours. If you're one of the highest paid employees at your company, however, an employer may deny you NJFLA. For more detail click here.
What is the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination?
This law applies to all private and public employers and prohibits them from pregnancy discrimination or discrimination against women due to childbirth or related conditions. Employers may not treat pregnant women less favorably than those who are not pregnant but have similar work abilities. It requires them to provide reasonable accommodations like bathroom breaks and assistance with manual labor, as well.
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By Kristina Udice
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