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New Jersey state program model for proposed FAMILY Act

State benefit programs in both New Jersey and California have become the model for a new program that has been proposed at the federal level. The new piece of legislation that has been proposed is one that would take the employee rights enumerated under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to a new level.

According to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, and those that support the new bill, FMLA isn’t enough. Under the FMLA, employees are allowed to care for themselves or a family member dealing with serious health-related events without fear of losing their job. The problem, say supporters of the new legislation, is that it is unpaid leave.

The fact that FMLA leave is unpaid means that employees are forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member. For some individuals and families, going without a paycheck simply isn’t a financially viable option. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act was proposed to help fix this issue.

FAMILY would provide a pathway for employees to continue receiving 66 percent of their paycheck while on leave. The program would be managed by the Social Security Administration. In order to fund the program, 0.2 percent of wages would be collected nationwide and placed into an independent trust.

Every employee, including those self-employed and unemployed, would be able to file an application for benefits under this program. These benefits would also be available regardless of whether the company has a single employee or thousands of employees.

As of now, FAMILY is only a proposal. However, employees are still protected under FMLA. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers that choose to take leave under this act.

Source: Hudson Valley Press Online, “Family Medical Insurance Leave Act Introduced,” Jan. 1, 2014

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