I’m a proud supporter of New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance Program, which helps small businesses like mine provide paid family and medical leave to my four employees. All small businesses and workers, in every state, should be able to count on a program with the same benefits and protections. New Jersey’s program worked for my business, and it should be the baseline for the country.
Four years ago one of my employees came to me and said his wife was having twins. He needed help getting some paid time off, and we weren’t sure what to do. Luckily, I had a friend who knew about the Family Leave Insurance Program. The paperwork was pretty straightforward. We filled it out together and sent it in, and he got two thirds of his wages replaced while bonding with his twins. He is a very important part of my business, and this was very important to his life. So we made adjustments, he got some paid time with his family, and he’s still with us.
I also remember life before our paid leave program, and I know that’s still the reality for most small businesses and workers around the country. In 2006, before there was any such program, I had an employee who had to leave his job because of family needs. I only found out after the fact that his mother was dying of cancer, around the Christmas season. He could have really used the New Jersey Family Leave Insurance then. This was awful for him. It was a tough loss for me personally since along with losing an employee, I also lost a longtime friend. It was also detrimental to my business. He had been my best employee for several years and performed many critical management functions. The costs of the time and money it took to replace him were astronomical. I had to take time away from my responsibilities as the owner to fill the gap in the interim.
The difference the state Family Leave Insurance Law has made for my employees and my business is clear.
And the program continues to improve. This year, we updated the definition of family to make it more representatives of actual families. Now, for example, a person can take paid leave to care for a sibling. I know how important that is, because one of my sisters – who wasn’t working at the time – cared for another one of my sisters until she passed away from stomach cancer.
We also expanded job protection and increased wage replacement so more workers can afford to use the benefit. All these changes are business friendly.
The New Jersey Family Leave Insurance law allows small business owners like me to provide paid family and medical to my employees and ensure that no one is forced to choose between caring for serious family and medical needs or putting food on the table. It also helps that small businesses can recruit and retain dedicated employees, decreasing costly turnover expenses and strengthening our bottom lines.
Tony Sandkamp is the owner of Sandkamp Woodworks, an architectural woodworking business in New Jersey.
Check out more Small Business for Paid Leave resources at smallbusinessforpaidleave.org.