Flu Epidemic Gives Urgency to Sick Leave LawApril 2, 2018
As New Jersey feels the effect of the flu epidemic this year, legislators are calling for laws requiring paid sick time as a matter of public health. Employees who do not have the ability to take paid sick leave will go to work despite their illness, exposing their co-workers to potentially contagious viruses, including the flu. With this year’s flu virus being especially toxic, the inability to take paid sick leave potentially puts the safety of the entire state at risk. There have been over 18,000 confirmed cases of the flu in New Jersey this season. Several child fatalities have also been attributed to the flu in New Jersey this year.
Advocates for Sick Leave Law
Worker advocate groups continue to lobby for a state-wide sick leave law. Over one million New Jersey workers do not have the ability to earn paid sick days at their jobs. While several New Jersey towns have their own local sick leave laws, there is no state-wide mandate in place. For many businesses, the administration of different local sick leave laws has been especially burdensome.
Several state nursing community officials, including those from the New Jersey State Nurses Association, appeared before the New Jersey Senate in support of the new sick leave law. The officials highlighted the public health risk currently caused by this year’s flu virus and stressed that by allowing workers to take paid sick time when needed, the workers can heal quickly and keep others from being infected.
Advantages of the Bill
Under the recently introduced New Jersey Senate bill, all New Jersey businesses would be required to allow their employees to accrue paid sick leave. Workers could earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Depending on the size of the employer, most New Jersey employees would be able to earn between 40 to 72 hours of paid sick leave. Seasonal workers would be required to work 100 days before they could use any of their accrued paid sick leave. It remains unclear what type of businesses may be exempt from this law.
Certain New Jersey business leaders oppose a mandatory paid sick leave law and point out that most New Jersey businesses already have some type of sick leave policy in place. Local municipalities that currently have similar paid sick leave laws, including Montclair, New Jersey, report healthy communities as a result.
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