New Jersey’s state assembly next month will take up a bill that would require employers to provide paid sick leave, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said in a statement on Wednesday.
The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D), would allow workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 worked. Two New Jersey cities and New York City already have such mandates.
“I support every local effort to adopt this pro-worker policy, but I also feel strongly that this must be a statewide policy that helps all workers,” Prieto (D) said in the statement. “This would especially benefit workers in the health, education, social services, hospitality and retail industries and provide needed assistance to part-timers.”
The fight for paid sick leave requirements has picked up steam since San Francisco passed the nation’s first local paid sick leave policy in 2006. D.C. followed suit two years later, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Seattle passed a similar policy in 2011, the year that Connecticut became the only state to implement such a law. Last year, Portland, Ore., New York City, and Jersey City, N.J., also implemented paid sick leave. Newark joined that group early this year.
If passed in New Jersey, the state would become only the second to do so. Earlier in the week, a progressive coalition announced that it had delivered petitions to get the issue on the ballot in five cities: Irvington, Montclair, Passaic, Paterson, and Trenton.
Advocates argue that paid sick leave is a basic right of employment and promotes public and economic health. And President Obama lent the movement his support in June, saying at the White House Summit on Working Families that if Congress won’t act, states and cities must.
“We’ve got states who are setting a good example,” he said. “California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey all gave workers paid family leave. Connecticut offers paid sick days and so does New York City. Since I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage last year — they’ve been a little slow, shockingly, but 13 states have taken steps to raise it on their own.”
In separate 2012 analyses, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control found that a lack of sick leave may act as a barrier to getting cancer testing and preventive medical care and that introducing or expanding paid sick leave could help reduce nonfatal work injuries, especially in high-risk occupations. Last summer, the Center for Economic Policy Research surveyed 251 Connecticut employers on their experience under the state’s 2011 paid sick leave law and found that more than three in four supported the law. The largest increases in paid sick leave coverage were seen in the health, education and social services, hospitality, and retail industries, the same trio Prieto highlighted in his announcement.
As of 2012, three in four full-time workers had access to paid sick leave, while only one in four part-time workers did, the Labor Department reported last year. Between 1992 and 2012, the cost for providing paid sick leave as a share of total compensation was unchanged. Then as now, it accounts for roughly 0.9 percent of total compensation. While it has become more widespread, however, paid sick leave policies have become less generous, as the chart below shows.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) told The New Jersey Star-Ledger that he supported Lampitt’s bill and a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie (R) said only that it “will be reviewed” when the time comes.