Retroactive paid sick leave could happen to New Jersey workers who have had to take time off work after taking days off due to vaccine side effects or COVID-19 quarantine.
The bill, S3827, would require employers to grant paid sick leave to workers who are absent from work for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. It covers two weeks of sick leave if the employee cannot come to work because he is in quarantine due to exposure or illness, has symptoms of coronavirus or is awaiting a test result, and s ” takes care of a family member or a sick child without care.
It would also apply to workers, regardless of the length of their employment, and would be granted in addition to other paid sick leave already provided by the employer, the bill says.
The bill would be retroactive to January 1 and run until September 30.
The measure was rejected Thursday by the Senate Labor Committee and is now heading to the full Senate. He has no accompanying bill in the Assembly.
A recent study found that nearly half of unvaccinated adults across the country fear they will miss their jobs due to vaccine side effects or have to take time off work to get the vaccine. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation study, fear of missing work due to a vaccine reaction is the third reason people say they have not been vaccinated, behind fears for safety and concerns about serious side effects.
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More than 4.2 million New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated and more than 9 million doses have been administered, according to the state’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the bill’s sponsor, said the program would be funded entirely by federal bailout dollars, “which means no cost. for the vast majority of New Jersey businesses “.
“This will provide significant public health benefits to New Jersey residents by reducing the spread of COVID-19, promoting access to vaccines and ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their jobs and their health needs. health and care, ”she said.
April Fitch, a security guard at Newark Liberty Airport and a member of the 32BJ union, said she fell ill on March 28, 2020 and was told to go to work after three days. After not feeling better, she went to the emergency room, where she paid a $ 150 co-payment and left without a diagnosis, except to quarantine herself for two weeks.
Just three weeks later, her mother died of COVID-19 after catching the virus in the nursing home she lived in. Fitch said she has a total of three weeks to recover and mourn the loss of her mother, exhausting all of her paid sick leave and vacation time for the year.
“Adding financial hardship to the already complicated pandemic problem is cruel. We need to know if we get sick, we can recover without the added stress of having to put food on the table, ”she said, stressing the importance of helping communities of color disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
More than two dozen 32BJ members died during the pandemic and hundreds more were sick, said Kevin Brown, union president.
“If (32 BJ members) had enough vacation days, they use them and leave without pay, or in some cases they hardly have enough days, then they leave without pay,” he said. declared. “So they have a double whammy of having COVID – maybe dying – and not getting paid. “
Employers could require documents after three consecutive sick days, and the employer would be eligible for a fully refundable tax credit to cover the cost, which could go up to $ 2,000 or up to $ 5,100, depending on the reason the worker is calling.
Several business groups opposed the bill during the committee hearing.
“The retroactive nature of the bill … is a problem, and it’s a logistical nightmare for human resources to find records,” said Eileen Kean of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Ray Cantor, government affairs representative for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, compared the bill to a similar measure in Massachusetts, which is not retroactive. He also noted that this could be a costly burden on employers, which the state of New England addressed by creating a $ 75 million fund for business owners.
But supporters of the bill insist it will cost New Jersey nothing and could only be beneficial.
“We really think it’s free money for the state, its citizens, its employers, it’s a win-win for everyone,” Brown said. “Let’s take care of these people when they catch Covid and don’t leave them without a paycheck. “
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