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    Chapter 21:

      Section: 43:21-26: Purpose.

          2. Purpose. This act shall be liberally construed as remedial legislation enacted upon the following declarations of public policy and legislative findings of fact:

The public policy of this State, already established, is to protect employees against the suffering and hardship generally caused by involuntary unemployment. But the "unemployment compensation law" provides benefit payments to replace wage loss caused by involuntary unemployment only so long as an individual is "able to work, and is available for work," and fails to provide any protection against wage loss suffered because of inability to perform the duties of a job interrupted by nonoccupational illness, injury, or other disability of the individual or of members of the individual's family. Nor is there any other comprehensive and systematic provision for the protection of working people against loss of earnings due to a nonoccupational sickness, accident, or other disability.

The prevalence and incidence of nonoccupational sickness, accident, and other disability among employed people is greatest among the lower income groups, who either cannot or will not voluntarily provide out of their own resources against the hazard of an earnings loss caused by nonoccupational sickness, accident, or other disability. Disabling sickness or accident occurs throughout the working population at one time or another, and approximately fifteen per centum (15\%) of the number of people at work may be expected to suffer disabling illness of more than one week each year.

It was found, prior to the enactment of the "Temporary Disability Benefits Law," P.L.1948, c.110 (C.43:21-25 et al.), that then existing voluntary plans for the payment of cash sickness benefits covered less than one-half of the number of working people of this State who were covered by the "unemployment compensation law," and that even that degree of voluntary protection afforded uneven, unequal and sometimes uncertain protection among the various voluntary benefit programs.

While the enactment of that law has provided stable protection for New Jersey's disabled workers, very few workers are protected from income losses caused by the need to take time off from work to care for family members who are incapable of self-care, including newborn and newly-adopted children. The growing portion of middle-income families in which all adult family members work, largely due to economic necessity, points to the desperate need for replacement income when a working family member must take time to care for family members who are unable to take care of themselves. Moreover, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world which does not have a mandatory workplace-based program for such income support. It is therefore desirable and necessary to fill the gap in existing provisions for protection against the loss of earnings caused by involuntary unemployment, by extending such protection to meet the hazard of earnings loss due to inability to work caused by nonoccupational sickness, accidents, or other disabilities of workers and members of their families. Developing systems that help families adapt to the competing interests of work and home not only benefits workers, but also benefits employers by reducing employee turnover and increasing worker productivity.

The foregoing facts and considerations require that there be a uniform minimum program providing in a systematic manner for the payment of reasonable benefits to replace partially such earnings loss and to meet the continuing need for benefits where an individual becomes disabled during unemployment or needs to care for family members incapable of self-care. In order to maintain consumer purchasing power, relieve the serious menace to health, morals and welfare of the people caused by insecurity and the loss of earnings, to reduce the necessity for public relief of needy persons, to increase workplace productivity and alleviate the enormous and growing stress on working families of balancing the demands of work and family needs, and in the interest of the health, welfare and security of the people of this State, such a system, enacted under the police power, is hereby established, requiring the payment of reasonable cash benefits to eligible individuals who are subject to accident or illness which is not compensable under the worker's compensation law or who need to care for family members incapable of self-care.

While the Legislature recognizes the pressing need for benefits for workers taking leave to care for family members incapable of self-care, it also finds that the need of workers for leave during their own disability continues to be especially acute, as a disabled worker has less discretion about taking time off from work than a worker caring for a family member. Notwithstanding any interpretation of law which may be construed as providing a worker with rights to take action against an employer who fails or refuses to restore the worker to employment after the worker's own disability, the Legislature does not intend that the policy established by P.L.2008, c.17 (C.43:21-39.1 et al.) of providing benefits for workers during periods of family temporary disability leave to care for family members incapable of self-care be construed as granting any worker an entitlement to be restored by the employer to employment held by the worker prior to taking family temporary disability leave or any right to take action, in tort, or for breach of an implied provision of the employment agreement, or under common law, against an employer who fails or refuses to restore the worker to employment after the family temporary disability leave, and the Legislature does not intend that the policy of providing benefits during family temporary disability leave be construed as increasing, reducing or otherwise modifying any entitlement of a worker to return to employment or right of the worker to take action under the provisions of the "Family Leave Act," P.L.1989, c.261 (C.34:11B-1 et seq.).

Since the enactment of the "Temporary Disability Benefits Law," P.L.1948, c.110 (C.43:21-25 et al.), the State government-operated State temporary disability benefits plan, or "State plan," has proven to be highly efficient and cost effective in providing temporary disability benefits to New Jersey workers. The State plan guarantees the availability of coverage for all employers, regardless of experience, with low overhead costs and a rapid processing of claims and appeals by knowledgeable, impartial public employees. Consequently, the percentage of all employers using the State plan increased from 64\% in 1952 to 98\% in 2006, while the percentage of employees covered by the State plan increased from 28\% to 83\%. A publicly-operated, nonprofit State plan is therefore indispensable to achieving the goals of the "Temporary Disability Benefits Law," P.L.1948, c.110 (C.43:21-25 et al.).

L.1948, c.110, s.2; amended 2008, c.17, s.1; 2019, c.37, s.7.

This section added to the Rutgers Database: 2019-03-13 14:50:32.

Older versions of 43:21-26 (if available):

Court decisions that cite this statute: CLICK HERE.