New Jersey explores paid sick leave policy

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New Jersey is exploring a paid sick leave bill that would provide privately employed workers — about 1.2 million people — with up to nine sick days a year.

Under the bill, private employers with fewer than 10 workers need to provide five paid sick days, while private employers with 10 or more employees need to give workers nine paid sick days. State law mandates that only public sector workers can receive 15 paid sick leave days.

Likewise, workers can earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Seasonal workers need to work for 100 days to be eligible for paid sick leave, according to the bill.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is in favor of paid sick leave and is likely to sign a version of the bill into law if it passes the Legislature — a stark difference from his predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed a paid family leave bill last summer.

“Expanding earned sick leave is not only the right thing to do for workers — it’s the right thing to do for our economy and businesses,” Murphy tweeted on Friday.

See also: 6 tips to tracking, administering paid sick leave

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg introduced the bill last month after New Jersey saw one of the deadliest flu strains on record.

Despite high levels of contagion, hourly workers especially feel compelled to come into work. Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they cannot afford to take a sick day, according to a new survey from NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The bill’s mandated paid leave would limit the risk of contagious outbreaks and also create a consistent, state-wide policy, proponents contend. It is also widely supported by various advocacy groups across the state.

“We support paid sick leave to protect the public health, but we also appreciate Assemblywoman Lampitt’s and Sen. Weinberg’s recognition that there is a segment of workers who have made the choice to work per-diem, have flexibility and earn a higher hourly wage,” says Neil Eicher, vice president of government relations and policy at ‎New Jersey Hospital Association.

Currently, 13 cities and towns across the state offer paid sick leave.

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