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Earned Sick Days

Fact Sheets: New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Law | Women | Low-Income Workers | NJ Businesses | Health Impact | NJ Earned Sick Days Brochure

Earned Sick Days for All New Jersey Workers

New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Law

What are Earned Sick Days?

Earned sick days guarantee workers the right to job-protected paid time from work when they need time to care for their own health needs and those of family. Currently, no federal law guarantees workers access to earned sick & safe days when they or their family members are sick, or when they need to deal with medical, legal or relocation issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault. Prior to the enactment of Earned Sick Days in New Jersey, over a million workers in the state did not earn a single paid sick day. Many worked in low-wage service jobs, caring for our children and the elderly, and preparing and serving food in our restaurants. Without job-protected earned sick days, they often were unable to afford to stay home.

Guaranteed earned sick days allow workers to stay home to take time to recover, helping slow or stop the spread of illness, making healthier and more productive workplaces in New Jersey. Workers recover faster and can access medical care – allowing them to get back to work sooner and lowering health care costs. With earned sick days it is possible to be both a good employee and a good parent or family caregiver. Earned sick days boost our families, our community and our economy.

Who Else is Affected?

Nearly one quarter of US adults have been fired or threatened with job loss for taking time off to recover from an illness or caring for a dependent.[i] Losing a day’s wages -- or worse, a job -- undermines a family’s ability to contribute to the economy and forces many to rely on public programs to stay afloat.

  • 76% of food industry workers in New Jersey did not have earned sick days.[ii] The Centers for Disease Control found that more than half of all norovirus outbreaks can be traced back to sick food service workers.[iii]
  • 51% of New Jerseyans age 45 or older, either reported not having paid sick leave or that they were unable to use the leave to care for sick family members.[iv]
  • Of the four in ten New Jersey workers age 45 or older who reported receiving paid sick leave, 75% said it was important to them that their employer provide paid sick leave.[v]

Why are Earned Sick Days Important?

When sick workers are able to stay home to take time to recover, the spread of illness slows and workplaces are both healthier and more productive. Workers also recover faster and can access medical care – allowing them to get back to work sooner and lowering health care costs. Earned sick days make it possible to be a good employee and a good parent or family caregiver. Earned sick days boost our families, our community and our economy.

  • Research shows that when parents are able to care for them at home, sick children get better sooner and reduce the risk of spreading the illness to their classmates.[vi]
  • And when working families have enough money in their pockets to cover the basics, the whole economy gains. Losing even a day’s wages – or worse, a job – undermines families’ ability to contribute to the economy and forces many to rely on public programs to keep their families afloat.
  • Earned sick days help to protect the public health. Workers without earned sick days are more likely to go to work sick, putting other’s health at risk.
    • Not having earned sick days is associated with an 18 percentage point increase in ill employees spreading diseases at work.[vii]  
    • During the H1N1 epidemic, 7 million people caught the virus from co-workers who came to the job while sick.[viii]
    • Parents with earned sick days are 20% less likely to send sick children to school and those without are five times more likely to seek emergency room care for their children.[ix]
  • For a low-income family without earned sick days, going 3.5 days without wages is equivalent to losing a month’s groceries.[x]
  • Businesses that provide earned sick days to workers to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member benefit from workers’ increased commitment and productivity, and lower turnover costs.[xi]

The New Jersey Earned Sick Days and Safe Days Law

New Jersey Assembly Bill No. 1827, introduced by Assemblywoman Lampitt, and Senate Bill No. 2171, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, also known as the Earned Sick and Safe Days Act, was signed into law by Governor Murphy on May 2, 2018.  

The law grants New Jersey workers the right to job-protected paid time from work to care for their own health needs and for the health needs of family members. Most full-time, part-time, temporary, and undocumented workers employed in New Jersey are covered (see exemptions further below). Workers earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours (5 days) in a 12-month period.

Key Components of the New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Law

  • Workers start to accrue paid sick days as soon as they begin employment (of the effective date of the act), and must wait 120 days before being able to use the days.
  • Workers can carry-over earned sick days from year to year, but employers will not be required to provide more than 40 hours in any given 12 month period.
  • Employees cannot be required to bring in medical documentation (like a doctor's note) unless they are out for at least three consecutive days.
  • Businesses that have paid time off and/or vacation time policies that are provided in the same amounts (and that can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as under the law) won’t have to change their sick leave policy.
  • Employers must provide employees with a notification of their rights under the law as well as post in the workplace.
  • Employers are not permitted to take retaliatory action or discriminate against an employee who requests or uses their allowable earned sick days.
  • Covered family members include: spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, legal ward, civil union partner, domestic partner, sibling, parent-in-law and sibling-in-law (or the sibling or parent of domestic partner or civil union partner), and individuals whose relationship is the equivalent of family.  Family equivalent individuals might include a close friend, roommate, or neighbor.

Allowable uses of earned sick days:

  • For an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for diagnosis or preventive medical care.
  • For an employee’s need to care for family members (see covered family members above) when they fall ill or are in need of diagnosis or preventative medical care, or to provide care dealing with issues arising from domestic or sexual violence.
  • To deal with medical, legal or relocation issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault, or to receive services from a designated domestic violence or victim services agency.
  • In the event a public official closes a place of business or place of care or school of a child, due to a public health emergency.
  • To attend a school-related conference, meeting, or other event requested or required by a school, or to attend a meeting regarding care provided to the child in connection with the child’s health condition or disability.

Workers exempt from the Earned Sick and Safe Days law:

  • Construction workers with Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Public workers with sick time covered under state law, rule, or regulations. Municipal and county employees are covered under the law.
  • Per diem licensed (or in the process of gaining licensure) health care employees who work on an as-needed basis to supplement, replace or substitute a health care employee; who work only when the they indicate they are available to work and they have no obligation to work when they do not indicate availability; and they either have the opportunity for full-time or part-time employment; OR they have waived earned sick leave benefits for alternative benefits or consideration. This per-diem exemption does not include certified homemaker-home health aides.
  • Contractors, freelancers, etc – workers who are not considered “employees”.

[v] IBID

Click Here For Earned Sick Day Resources, Research and Reports.

Documents: 
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Earned Sick Days Law fact sheet.pdf148.9 KB