To the Editor:

The proposed sick leave bill that passed the New Jersey Senate last month will be a detriment to our businesses and economic climate.

The bill mandates that all businesses, regardless of size, provide paid sick leave to all employees, including part-time and seasonal workers. The Senate version of the bill would require employers with more than 10 employees to provide 72 hours of annual sick leave and, for businesses with fewer than 10 employees, there is a 40-hour requirement. 

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Forcing companies with 10 or more employees to provide 72 hours of paid leave is disproportionate and discriminatory, costing them more money. It’s just not right.

Companies with 10 or fewer employees would be hurt the most because they do not have the staff to cover absent employees’ workloads. Extensive absences could force employers to hire a temporary employee, which is more expensive than the salaried employee, adding insult to injury.

According to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), which has been a vocal opponent of paid sick leave, more than 70 percent of New Jersey businesses have a voluntary sick leave plan in place for their employees.

One of the worst features of this bill is the open-ended amount of sick time that can be carried forward indefinitely. This creates a huge liability for New Jersey employers, especially the small ones.

There are also record-keeping and documentation regulations that would be onerous to the average business owner. It is a whole new complicated system human resources would need to adopt, learn and implement.

After the financial and paperwork impacts, perhaps the most disruptive part of the bill for businesses is that they would be prohibited from asking employees to make plans to have their work covered—even for a planned absence.

Asking for a doctor’s note for proof of illness also becomes a burden as the employer will now have to pay mileage and expenses for employees to obtain it. This could be an added cost for employers on top of the employee absence and coverage of that person’s absence.

This new bill also could cause confusion between sick time and a disability claim, which is already in place and would be impacted. Under current law, if you are absent from work for seven days, the eighth day becomes a short-term disability claim. Under this new bill, the sick time periods and disability time periods could cross paths, causing confusion and costing more money. The state could need to add people to determine what constitutes an illness vs a disability, adding additional burdens to the taxpayers. Are these bills going to be mutually exclusive?

This bill could drive business owners away from New Jersey. Haven’t we lost enough of our employers already?

Caring for our employees in times of need, whether it be illness or short-term disability or family needs, is a positive thing and should be promoted, but the extent to which this bill goes will hurt the employers that will bear the financial burden of the bill. Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and proposing a bill that will strike at their economic heart seems counterproductive. This is not a good bill.