RUTGERS STUDY: THE PAID FAMILY LEAVE OF THE UNDER-UTILIZED NJ
The Rutgers Center for Women and Work is urging the state to raise awareness of the program, streamline the application process, and make payments on time.
PISCATAWAY, NJ (December 6, 2021) – As Congress Democrats debate a national paid family leave policy in President Biden’s Build Back Better program, a new report of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work finds that New Jersey’s own program continues to suffer from bureaucracy, late payments, and low awareness among low-wage workers who need it most.
“New Jersey is a national leader in policies that support working families, but our paid family leave program is still a work in progress,” said Debra Lancaster, Executive Director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “When workers don’t know the program exists, are having trouble applying, or payments are taking too long to arrive, it’s clear we have work to do. ”
Adopted in 2009, New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance (FLI) offers up to 12 weeks of paid leave and up to 85% salary replacement for workers caring for newborns, babies and children. ‘a newly adopted child or a sick loved one. Governor Murphy expanded the program in 2020, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL) has taken steps to improve its implementation, but there is room for growth. .
Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rutgers Center for Women and Work surveyed workers, employers, advocates and state administrators to find out how DOL and other stakeholders can strengthen paid family leave in New Jersey. The report finds:
- Low awareness: The FLI has been around for 12 years, but only 53% of New Jersey residents know it exists. Part of the problem is that DOL has failed to meet its legal obligation to spend $ 1.2 million per year on education and awareness. The agency should release the funds.
- Application issues: Confusing questions about The application stumbles many of the workers we interviewed. The DOL should create a user guide to help applicants navigate the process and an information hotline for questions unrelated to a specific claim.
- Payment period : Many workers had to wait weeks, if not months, to receive their first FLI payment. This situation was particularly detrimental to low-wage workers with no other source of income. DOL is working to modernize its claims management system, which is based on a 1988 mainframe, but it must find a way to speed up payments in the meantime.
- HR disruption: While favorable to paid family time off, HR managers interviewed for our study felt ill-equipped to guide their employees through the process – and some were unaware the program had expanded last year. Employers must ensure that their HR staff use DOLs employer toolkit and monitor changes in the law.
- Culture shock: In some workplaces, employees have felt judged and even humiliated for using FLI. Managers should strive to standardize paid family leave by using the program themselves and encouraging their staff to do the same when life demands it.
“Family leave insurance has the potential to make New Jersey a healthier, fairer state,” said Maisha Simmons, Director of New Jersey Grants at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This report shows the way forward for this well-intentioned program to reach that potential. ”
Previous studies have shown that paid family leave produces significant benefits, including better health outcomes for mothers and children and greater economic security for single and poorly paid mothers. Fathers are more likely to take an active role in caregiving, and mothers are more likely to return to work after childbirth, when they use paid family leave.
About the school
The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) is the world’s leading source of expertise on managing and representing workers, designing effective organizations and building strong employment relationships. SMLR Center for Women and Work (CWW) engages in research, education and programming that promotes economic and social equity for working women, their families and their communities.