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The end of the 2018 legislative session in New Jersey brought with it passage of several bills impacting its statutory disability and family leave programs. After the governor’s conditional veto in early September, the New Jersey legislature amended the effective date to a year after enactment of the new law. Following that amendment, the new laws were signed by the governor on October 4. They go into effect October 4, 2019.

Across the country, Washington State’s Paid Family Leave program marches forward, with new resources and developments from the Washington Employment Security Department.

New Jersey

NJ Assembly Bill 2762: This bill provides that when an employee applies for temporary disability benefits (TDI) for a pregnancy or birth related disability, the plan must automatically process an application for the paid family leave benefits (FLI) program, unless the individual opts out. The FLI benefits, if approved, would begin immediately following the end of the TDI benefits.

NJ Assembly Bill 4118: This bill allows individuals to submit TDI and FLI claims early (up to 60 days before the start of leave) in certain circumstances. The law is effective on October 4, 2019, and the provisions apply only to claims for benefits for periods of disability and family temporary disability beginning on or after January 1, 2019.

NJ Assembly Bill 2763: This bill expands the data that the Commissioner of Labor must provide in annual reports and requires the reports to be made available to the public.

Updated Rate Changes: The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has submitted a proposal for the 2019 rate changes for Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance. Some of the key changes of the proposal, anticipated to be approved prior to 2019, include:

  • Maximum weekly benefits rate increased from $637 to $650.
  • Increases from $33,700 to $34,400 of the employee’s wages that are subject to contributions.
  • Increases from $169 to $172 of the amount an employee must earn to establish a base week.

Washington State

On January 1, 2019, employers must begin collecting premium deductions for Washington State’s Paid Family Leave program. The initial premium will be 0.4% and may be adjusted annually after 2020 by the Employment Security Department (ESD). One-third of the premium will be collected for family leave, with two-thirds of the premium designated for medical leave. Premium payments must be paid to the ESD quarterly.  Benefits, which include leave (replacing Washington State’s existing unpaid family and medical leave program) and pay, begin January 1, 2019. The regulation process has been divided into six phases. Phase One rules, which went into effect on June 29, provide guidance on:

  • Premium assessment and collection for businesses;
  • The election of program coverage for certain populations;
  • The establishment and operation of voluntary plans;
  • When a conditional premium waiver can be granted;
  • How the program interacts with collective bargaining agreements; and
  • Other topics to implement the program.

Phase Two rules, anticipated to be final in early December, provide guidance on:

  • Employment security rule governance
  • Definitions
  • Assessing and collecting premiums
  • Voluntary plans
  • Employer responsibilities
  • Penalties and audits
  • Small business assistance
  • Dispute resolution
  • Practice and procedure

You can read more about the topics and timeline for Phases Three through Six here.

Employers who opt to provide benefits for the new law under a voluntary plan can review a Voluntary Plan Guide from the ESD and can now submit their application for the January 1, 2019 quarter. According to the ESD’s Paid Family Leave Advisory Committee, as of October 18, 2018, 11 applications for a Voluntary plan have been received, two for medical only, and nine for medical and paid family leave. To date, only one application has been processed and approved, and the processing time for the application was 14 calendar days.

The ESD stated in the October 18 call that it is planning to publish an Employer Toolkit with helpful resources, including model forms. Stay tuned for an anticipated publication next week.

Managing complicated and paid family and medical leave programs isn’t easy. Consider leave of absence software and outsourcing administration tools that can help you manage the complexity and the compliance. Contact ReedGroup and find the solution that is perfect for you.

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