New Jersey Enacts Law Requiring Employers To Provide Earned Sick Leave

On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that requires employers to provide earned sick leave to employees working in New Jersey.  The new law, which goes into effect on October 29, 2018, states that employees shall accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Employers must pay each employee for earned sick leave at the same rate of pay with the same benefits as the employee normally earns.  However, under the law, employees cannot accrue or use more than 40 hours of earned sick leave in a year, and they can only carry forward up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave into the next benefit year.


What Employees Are Covered Under the Act?

  • Most employees working in New Jersey “for compensation” are subject to the Act.

What Employees Are Not Covered Under the Act?

  • Employees employed in the construction industry under a collective bargaining agreement, per diem healthcare employees, and public employees who already have sick leave benefits pursuant to a specific statute or regulation are not covered under the Act.

What Employers Are Covered Under the Act?

  • The definition of “employer” is very extensive and includes “any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company, or other entity that employs employees in the State”, including “help service firms.”

What Employers Are Not Covered Under the Act?

  • The Act expressly excludes public employers that are required to provide its employees with sick leave with full pay pursuant to any other law, rule, or regulation of the State.

How Does an Employee Accrue Sick Leave?

  • The Act requires the employer to designate any period of twelve (12) consecutive months as a sick leave “benefit year.”
  • In each “benefit year” an employee may accrue up to forty (40) hours of sick time leave at a rate of one (1) hour for every thirty (30) hours worked.
  • On the effective date of the Act (October 29, 2018), current employees begin accruing sick time. New employees hired after October 29, 2018 begin accruing sick time on the first date of their employment.
  • An employer cannot change its “benefit year” without first consulting the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • In an alternative way to accrue hours, an employer may assign the full forty (40) hours of sick time leave at the beginning of the workplace’s “benefit year.”

When Can An Employee Use Sick Leave Under the Act?

  • Existing employees as of October 29, 2018 can use their accrued sick leave beginning on the 120th calendar day after October 29, 2018. An employee hired after October 29, 2018 may use accrued sick leave on the 120th  calendar day after the employee begins working.
  • When time is needed to diagnose, care for, treat, or recover from the employee’s or their family member’s physical or mental illness, injury, adverse health condition, or for preventative medical for the employee or family member.
  • When time is needed by the victims of domestic or sexual violence to seek medical attention, social services, and legal services which includes attending legal proceedings related to the domestic or sexual violence.
  • When an employee is unable to work because of the closure of the employee’s workplace, the school or place of care of a child of the employee by a public official due to an epidemic or other public health emergency or where there is a concern that the employee or family member in need of care by the employee would jeopardize the health of others.
  • When time is needed by the employee to attend school-related conferences, meetings, and other functions requested by school personnel.
  • The definition of “family member” under the Act is very expansive and includes persons “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
  • Employers are not required to permit employees to use more than forty (40) hours of paid sick leave in a “benefit year.”

Foreseeable and Unforeseeable Absences

  • Employers may require advance notice not to exceed seven (7) calendar days, of an employee’s intention to use sick leave and its expected duration. Employers may require employees to make a reasonable effort to schedule their use of earned and foreseeable sick leave in a manner that does not “unduly disrupt” the operations of the employer.
  • Employers may prohibit employees from using earned and foreseeable sick leave on certain dates and require reasonable documentation if earned and unforeseeable sick leave is used during those dates.

Other Employer Obligations and Miscellaneous Items

  • Employers with existing paid sick leave policies may utilize those policies to satisfy the requirements of the Act as long as the basic requirements of the Act are followed.
  • The Act permits, but does not require, a payout for unused sick leave in the final month of the employee’s “benefit year.” If an employee chooses not to accept the payout at the end of the “benefit year”, the employee may carry over unused sick time up to forty (40) hours.
  • If the your workplace establishes a “buy back” of earned sick leave at the end of the “benefit year” and the employee agrees to receive payment for same, they may choose either payment for the full amount of their accrued time or for 50 % of such accrued time. Whatever accrued time that is not bought back can be carried forward to the next “benefit year” in accordance with the Act.
  • Unless established in an employer policy or collective bargaining agreement unused sick time cannot be cashed out upon the separation from employment.
  • If an employee is absent for at least three (3) consecutive days while using accrued sick leave, the employer may require “reasonable documentation” that confirms the employee used sick leave for a covered purpose as set forth in the Act.
  • The Act requires employers to keep documentation of employee hours worked and earned sick leave taken for a period of five (5) years.
  • Under the Act, employers are responsible for notifying their employees of their rights under the Act by posting a notice to be issued by the New Jersey Department of Labor.
  • The Act contains an anti-retaliation provision that provides for a rebuttable presumption that an employer’s actions are unlawful if it takes “adverse action” against an employee with ninety (90) days of the employee engaging in protective activity under the Act.


  • Prior to the effective date of the Act (October 29, 2018) you should review and update your workplace handbooks, manuals, and policies to account for the Act’s provisions.
  • For instance, if your workplace chooses to not allow employees from using earned and foreseeable sick leave on certain dates you must make those dates perfectly clear in your workplace handbooks, manuals, policies, or other documents that govern your workplace’s employee leave regulations.
  • By way of further example, if your workplace chooses to not offer employees a “buy back” of unused and accrued sick leave at the end of the “benefit year” then that too needs to be documented and explained in your workplace policies.

Should you have further questions on how the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act will affect your organization, feel free to contact our office at 856-854-8900 and we will be happy to assist you.