The end of the 2018 legislative session in New Jersey brought with it passage of two bills impacting its statutory disability and family leave programs. The purpose of the bills is to provide for a more seamless transition between TDI and FLI benefits. The new laws go into effect October 4, 2019.
NJ Assembly Bill 2762: This bill provides that when an employee applies for temporary disability benefits (TDI) for a pregnancy or birth related disability, the plan must automatically process an application for the paid family leave benefits (FLI) program, unless the individual opts out. The FLI benefits, if approved, would begin immediately following the end of the TDI benefits. The employee who is approved for benefits must notify the plan of the date the employee will return to work, and must notify the plan if the employee returns to work on an earlier date.
Note: This applies to the State plan and a Private plan that holds TDI and FLI for the individual. A private plan that offers only TDI must provide to its TDI claimants written notice of the application process for FLI concurrently with issuing its written approval of TDI benefits.
NJ Assembly Bill 4118: This bill allows employees to submit TDI and FLI claims early (up to 60 days before the start of leave) if an employee knows in advance when the leave will begin. The bill requires the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (the “Division”) to pay the benefit for the claim at the beginning of the claim. The bill applies to but is not limited to:
- periods of FLI leave for care of a child of the individual after adoption or childbirth, scheduled medical procedures, treatments, or appointments for a family member of the individual, and scheduled ongoing care of a family member of the individual; and
- periods of TDI leave related to pregnancy or childbirth, scheduled medical procedures, treatments, or appointments for the individual, and scheduled ongoing care of the individual.
Before this bill, the law did not explicitly prohibit a covered individual from submitting a TDI or FLI claim before the beginning of a leave. However, employers were not required to provide the necessary information to determine the individual’s eligibility for TDI or FLI benefits until the 9th day following the beginning of the leave. Therefore, the Division could not begin to process a claim until the documentation was received. This bill permits individuals to notify the employer of the anticipated period of leave and to apply for benefits up to 60 days prior to the date of the leave. No later than nine days after that notification, an employer must submit to the individual and the Division notices containing the information necessary to determine the individual’s eligibility for TDI and FLI benefits.
If the Division receives the claim less than 30 days before the commencement of the leave, the Division must make the benefit payment not more than 30 days after the receipt of the claim.
The TDI and FLI weekly benefit for claims submitted before the start of the leave is computed using the individual’s average weekly wage in relation to when the individual submits the claim for benefits. If an individual did not establish enough base weeks or have enough total earnings during the 52 weeks preceding the week the individual submits the claim to qualify for TDI or FLI benefits, the Division must notify the individual that the individual can file the claim again upon or after the commencement of the leave, at which point the Division will reconsider the individual’s eligibility for benefits based on the 52 weeks preceding the commencement date of the leave.
Updated Rate Changes: The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has submitted a proposal for the 2019 rate changes for Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance. Some of the key changes of the proposal, anticipated to be approved prior to 2019, include:
- Maximum weekly benefits rate increased from $637 to $650.
- Increases from $33,700 to $34,400 of the employee’s wages that are subject to contributions.
- Increases from $169 to $172 of the amount an employee must earn to establish a base week.
What ReedGroup is Doing:
- ReedGroup is updating its processes to ensure compliance with these new provisions, including for NJ TDI plans it administers for which it does not administer NJ FLI, sending written notice of the application process concurrently with issuing its written approval of NJ TDI benefits.
- ReedGroup is ensuring that it accepts NJ TDI and NJ FLI claims early (up to 60 days before the start of leave).
- Once final, ReedGroup will update the New Jersey TDI and FLI rates for administration of Private plans and offsets to paid company disability plans.