The state’s biggest business advocacy organization and employers association are combining efforts to meet the needs of the business and employer community.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) and the Employers Association of New Jersey have been coordination efforts since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.
New Jersey has been among the states that have been hit the hardest by the virus and it came as the state had been had been enjoying a solid year with a growing economy at near full employment.
A survey conducted by EANJ right before the virus took hold in China found that 60% of member employers were experiencing a talent shortage that was negatively impacting business.
But with the closure of many retail businesses and social-distancing measures employers have been forced to lay off workers and cut pay of many others.
Now, as the unprecedented national health emergency settles in, NJBIA and EANJ partnering together to bring expanded resources and capacity to New Jersey businesses and employers.
To meet the ever more complex and numerous needs at this time, EANJ will assist us in responding to questions relating to HR issues affecting employers, such as medical leaves, sick pay and unemployment, while NJBIA will assist EANJ on providing vital information on the broader economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, including access to recovery loans and tax credits.
Working together during this time of crisis will ensure that New Jersey businesses and employers will have all the benefits of our combined resources. We both look forward to serving all of you.
Layoff decisions that employers are forced to make are the most stressful, says John Sarno, president of the Association.
"It's the unpredictability that is causing the most concern. When possible, workers should work from home, but many can't, so they might lose their job for a period of time," he said.
And under state law, employees, including part-timers, are entitled to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year. In addition to taking paid time off for their own illness, employees are able to take time when schools and day care centers are closed.
And it is an unlawful employment practice to terminate or retaliate against an employee that requests time off from work based on a written or electronically transmitted recommendation of a medical professional that the employee take time off for a specific period of time, and because the employee has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which may infect others.
The employer can’t refuse to reinstate the employee to a job with no reduction in pay, benefits, seniority, status, or other terms of conditions of employment.
“There is a lot of complex information to be analyzed and a time pressure to act” observes Sarno.
Managing the health and welfare of the workforce is also an important focus, including:
- Actively encouraging employees with respiratory illness and fever to stay home;
- Ensuring that sick leave policies are modified and are consistent with any public health guidance and employees are aware of these modified policies, and
- Having flexible policies permitting employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
And requesting and requiring an employee to self-quarantine should be based on reasonable objective evidence that the employee would impose a substantial health or safety risk, not suspicion or rumor, says Sarno.
And businesses are starting to look ahead. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is designed to help workers, businesses, employers, and healthcare providers, states and others weather the storm caused by COVID-19 with financial and loan assistance and tax relief.
"The virus has a trajectory and is going to break at some point. But clearly the impact on all of us is unprecedented," he adds. "We are supporting our members, who are stepping up in this demanding environment, for the long haul, whatever it takes."