Businesses should review and update their employee handbook every year, but this year’s update is going to require a lot more changes than most.
New laws and regulations from 2018 will almost certainly impact some workplace policies in your business—Paid Sick Leave, the Equal Pay Act, and other mandates cover a lot of areas in the daily operation of a business.
Attorney Michael A. Shadiack of Connell Foley LLP in Roseland, New Jersey has extensive experience with drafting employee handbooks. Recently, he shared with us three things every employer in New Jersey should address in its employee handbook.
- Paid Sick Leave
The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave law takes effect Oct. 29, so any business in New Jersey that was not providing paid sick time to its employees will need to add a policy in its handbook, and also provide each employee with notice of the law.
But even if you already provide paid sick leave to your workers, chances are something in your policy will still need to be changed, such as the reasons that the employee can use leave.
“The law greatly expands the reasons for which an employee can use a sick day,” Shadiack said.
“Even if you’re currently providing employees with 40 hours of sick leave, you have to include in the sick leave policy the reasons the employees can use the leave, as well as key definitions, you have to designate a 12-month benefit year that will apply to all employees, and whether unused sick time will be paid out or carried over at the benefit year,” Shadiack said.
Under the law, an employee can utilize a sick day for any of the following reasons:
- Time needed for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, the employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or for preventive medical care.
- Time needed for the employee to aid or care for a family member during diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or other adverse health condition, or during preventive medical care for the family member.
- Absence necessary due to circumstances resulting from the employee, or his/her family member, being a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
- Time during which the employee is not able to work because of the closure of the workplace, or the school or place of care for his/her child, by order of a public health official.
- Time needed by the employee in connection with his or her child to attend a school-related conference, meeting, function or other event requested or required by the school.
And that’s just one aspect of the new law.
- Do Not Prohibit Employees from Discussing Salary and Benefit Information
In the past, employers often prohibited employees from discussing their salary, wages or benefit information with each other. Lately, regulators and courts have taken a dim view of the practice, but in New Jersey, it is a violation of the law, thanks to the Equal Pay Act.
In addition to making it easier to sue for pay discrimination, the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in April 2018, prohibits employers from stopping employees from disclosing or discussing their compensation information.
You cannot have a policy in your handbook that prohibits employees from discussing with each other their wages or benefits information, Shadiack said.
- Lactation Accommodation
Before leaving office in January 2018, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation requiring all New Jersey employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees by providing break time to express breast milk during the work day in a private location in the office. Since 2010, federal law has required companies with 50 or more employees to provide breastfeeding accommodations. New Jersey’s law, however, applies to New Jersey companies of all sizes.
If you’re a small business and you’ve already adopted such a policy, you are definitely on top of your game when it comes to regulations.
If you haven’t, here are the basics:
- You have to provide a suitable room that offers the employee privacy to express breast milk (which cannot be a bathroom stall).
- If a non-exempt employee uses a break from work of 20 minutes or less for this accommodation, the employer must continue to pay the employee; if it takes longer, the time can be unpaid.
- You should provide a separate refrigeration unit for storage of the breast milk and require the employee to label the container.