The Mom’s Beat: 4 key things to know about taking maternity leave in New Jersey

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Four key things to know about taking maternity leave in New Jersey Four key things to know about taking maternity leave in New Jersey

Writing this week’s column brought me right back. As I tried to refresh my knowledge on the laws regarding maternity leave in New Jersey to offer a primer for local expectant moms, I remembered how I felt when I was in their place; it seemed no one could give me a straight answer about how much time I could take off and how much of the leave would be paid.

 Ask any new mom and she will likely tell you a similar tale of confusion: there are multiple laws and programs that can overlap and run concurrently, and that’s before you add in the emotions surrounding the topic.

What I realized this time around – with a clearer mind – is that moms who wish to take a leave of absence from work in New Jersey have a better situation compared to other states.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Jersey is one of only three states to offer paid family and medical leave for six to eight weeks. The duration depends on whether the baby is born naturally or via cesarean section.

We are only second to California, which seems to be on the top of the pile altogether, which also offers 40 hours off each year for parents to attend school-related events and activities for their children.

But all of the others fall short to these coastal states. Say what you will about our state, and people do, New Jersey is pretty progressive when it comes to maternity leave.

Here are some basic facts:

1. Your employer will often ask you to take your vacation and any sick paid leave first;

 2. New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act was introduced in 2009 to amend the state’s temporary disability law and will cover you for six or eight weeks of paid leave to care for yourself and your baby following childbirth. The New Jersey act covers all employees regardless of company size. It covers leave for a maximum of six weeks. Employees are eligible to receive up to two-thirds of their average weekly wage for a maximum of $595. This law specifically stipulates that when you return to work, your employer is required to only have a job for you, not necessarily your original position;

 3. The Federal Family Medical Leave Act is a 12-week leave law that runs concurrently with the state’s leave, but it is unpaid. With this law, there are other restrictions to consider. It also only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, so if you work for a small business, you’ll need to discuss your options. If you are a high-ranking executive whose absence would negatively affect the business, there could be different rules as well; and

 4. You can also plan ahead and take out a separate short-term disability policy through an insurance company like Aflac, which will provide up to 60 percent of income for six to eight weeks to help with bills while you are out of work bonding and caring for the baby.

And our state is still progressing. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was amended in 2014 to prohibit discrimination against women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The law covers all private and public employers, regardless of size and prohibits them from discriminating against pregnant workers or otherwise treating pregnant women less favorably than those who are not pregnant but have similar work abilities. It also requires them to provide reasonable accommodations like bathroom breaks and assistance with manual labor.

So the situation is better in New Jersey than in most other states across the country, which would be good news if the United States weren’t one of just a few countries across the globe that does not already guarantee paid maternity leave for all of its citizens. France offers 100 percent of mothers’ incomes for 16 weeks and Germany offers that plus 65 percent for an additional 12 to 14 months.

Now that sounds more like it.

  Note: Benefits available to you can be calculated at the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development website. Click on Temporary Disability, then worker, then State Disability Benefits and then Calculating Benefit Amounts-State Plan. Please consult with your company’s human relations department for more detailed information and for verification of the application of these laws.

by Laura Stetser by Laura Stetser

Laura Stetser is a full-time reporter and mother of two school-age children. Connect with her via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @TheMomsBeat.

Read more of The Mom’s Beat HERE.

 

Other resources:

NJ Parent Link

New Jersey Family Leave Insurance

Guide to NJ Family Leave Insurance

U.S. Family Medical Leave Act


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