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NJ Family Leave Insurance — even hourly workers are eligible

New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance program, which gives workers paid time off to care for a loved one or new baby, is getting a lot of credit from advocates statewide.

But within the state’s borders, not enough workers know about the benefits, and they’re missing out, according to research released this month by The Shift Project at Harvard University’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

In a survey of 1,185 New Jersey low-wage hourly workers, only about half of workers who had a family leave opportunity in the past year actually used the program.

The study focused on the low-wage demographic of workers because they typically work for companies covered by state labor laws, but may be unaware of the benefits available to them.

“They’re kind of used to not getting benefits, they usually don’t qualify for health insurance,” said Elaine Zundl, a researcher on the project who currently serves as a lecturer in political science and economics at Rowan University. .

New Jersey Family Leave Insurance offers to cover up to 85% of a worker’s salary. As of 2022, one must have worked 20 weeks and earned at least $240 weekly to be eligible, or earned a total of $12,000 over a 12-month period leading up to their application.

In addition to caring for a sick loved one or a newborn, the leave can also be used by individuals recovering from a domestic violence incident.

Lack of awareness and confusion about eligibility appear to be the biggest obstacles facing hourly workers, Zundl noted. Also, 85% of the pay may not be enough to keep certain workers and their families going.

“Nearly half of the workers who used FLI — 51% — reported that they would have taken more time off but couldn’t afford it,” Zundl said.

Some workers, meanwhile, cited fear of retaliation – they felt pressure from their employer or colleagues, or returned to work sooner than planned because they feared losing their jobs.

The study’s researchers note that New Jersey is leading the way in offering these types of benefits to workers, but say more needs to be done to educate workers about the benefits available.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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