Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Navigating New Jersey Maternity Leave Benefits

New Jersey maternity leave benefits are quite rich when compared to most other state. Like any other government benefit, you need to know the different laws, how they work, and where to apply for benefits. NJ has three laws which impact maternity leave for workers in the state: temporary disability insurance, paid family leave, and family medical leave. Women can increase their level of maternity benefit by purchasing short term disability before getting pregnant.

NJ Temporary Disability Insurance

New Jersey temporary disability insurance is the first of three benefit programs you need to understand and utilize. The state disability plan replaces two thirds of your income, up to a weekly cap of $559 in 2011. Pregnancy is covered in the same manner as any other disabling condition. For normal pregnancy benefits are paid for up to four weeks prior to delivery, and six weeks after delivery. Benefits may be paid for a longer period of time if you deliver via c-section, or you experience a specific complication of pregnancy. Contact the state department of labor and workforce development for more information or to file a claim.

New Jersey Paid Family Leave

NJ paid family leave is funded and administered through the temporary disability insurance program. The benefit calculations of two thirds income replacement and a $559 cap apply here as well. You can claim paid family leave benefits to bond with your newborn baby during the first twelve months after the child's birth. A bonding leave must be at least seven days in length.

Keep in mind one very important point: 2/3 income replacement equals a 1/3 cut in pay. If your income exceeds $850 per week or $44,000 per year you hit the weekly cap and your pay cut will be more than one third. Make sure you budget properly.

NJ Family Medical Leave

The New Jersey family medical leave act supplements the federal law (FMLA), and provides an important distinction extremely relevant to maternity leave situations - particularly when pregnancy complications cause an extended leave from work prior to delivery. The federal FMLA applies to your own disability and/or the care of a sick family member and newborn child. The NJ law applies to the care of a sick family member and newborn child exclusively.

Examine a pregnancy complications scenario to understand why this distinction is so important. Let's say you experience complications during your pregnancy and miss twelve weeks of work prior to your delivery. The federal FMLA provides for up to twelve weeks of unpaid job protected leave during this time. Once you deliver your baby, the NJ law then provides an additional twelve weeks of job protected leave to care for your newborn. In this situation the two laws work in harmony to provide twenty four months of job protected leave.

Increase Your Maternity Benefit

Twenty four weeks of job protected leave with partial income replacement is far better than what most states provide. NJ is only one of five states with temporary disability coverage, only one of two states with paid leave to bond with your baby, and one of only ten states with a law supplementing the federal FMLA. But can you go twenty four weeks with at least a one-third pay cut?

If not, purchase short term disability insurance before getting pregnant. It will help increase your level of maternity leave income, and provide added protection in case complications of pregnancy cause you to miss additional time from work.

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