We are astonished that Governor Jon Corzine and the Legislature would impose a paid leave mandate on businesses that are already struggling to survive a recession and when the state has lost 10,500 private-sector jobs in the first quarter of 2008.

New Jersey becomes only the second state in the nation with such a paid leave mandate. The law is likely to extract a steep economic price down the road in the form of lost jobs and a further deterioration of New Jersey’s already poor business climate.

We are very concerned about the impact paid leave will have on employers, jobs, and the economy. NJBIA member companies sent more than 50,000 messages to the governor and the Legislature urging them not to pass this law. Rarely have we seen a more unpopular law. Paid leave will undermine the state’s ability to retain and attract private-sector jobs.”

This measure (financed by workers through a mandatory payroll tax) will grant six weeks of paid time off for all employees at all businesses to care for a family member or newborn. Unlike the existing unpaid leave laws, the bill does not exempt businesses with 2 to 49 employees. Small businesses that have never had to deal with unpaid leave laws suddenly will find themselves without key employees for long periods of time.

This mandate will force businesses to pay for temporary workers, overtime, or lost productivity in their workplaces. Many jobs simply won’t get done. It will be difficult for companies to find skilled temporary workers to fill positions, if they can find them at all. This will damage businesses’ relationship with their customers, and it will put them at a disadvantage with competitors in neighboring states that don’t have this mandate.

Employers already work with their employees to balance work and family needs, but they need the flexibility to operate their workplace to meet their specific needs. A one-size-fits-all mandate does not take into account the differences in the needs of the small retailer or office, a medium-sized manufacturer, or a large hospital. These employers use sick days, vacation, time off, flexible scheduling and many other methods to accommodate employees’ needs.

Philip Kirschner is president of the NJ Business & Industry Association, a statewide government affairs organization based in Trenton. He also has directed government affairs of the NJ School Boards Association and was executive director of the NJ State Bar Association..

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