It's been three years since New Jersey became one of only two states in the country to enact a family leave insurance law.

Virtua Hospital, Berlin (Virtua)

Three years later, The Center for Women and Work at Rutgers has released a new report, Policy in Action: New Jersey's Family Leave Insurance Program at Age Three, which finds that despite low public awareness of the program, more than 100,000 claims have been approved.

"As part of the report, a poll was conducted and we asked respondents their opinion of the Family Leave Insurance Program. More than three of four of our respondents, or 76 percent, indicated a favorable opinion of family leave insurance. This was true for both men and women, though their proportions were different at 68 percent for men and 84 percent for women," said Linda Houser of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers and co-author of the report.

But, awareness was a completely different story altogether.

"We asked people if they had ever seen or heard anything about family leave insurance. In that case, we found a very low level of awareness among New Jerseyans," said Houser. "More than six in ten reported never having seen or heard anything about the program. Even among the less than 40 percent that did know about the program, 17 percent of them didn't know that it included care for a seriously ill family member. So, we have high levels of unawareness and then even within the aware group, we have a level of incomplete awareness of the program."

As a result, recommendations were made based on the findings. They include:

  • Directing additional resources toward expanded outreach and education efforts to make sure all workers, especially low-wage workers and their families, know about the program and how to access benefits.
  • Expanding data collection and reporting efforts.
  • Expanding the definition of family member to cover more categories.
  • Increasing level of wage replacement to make leave more affordable.
  • Extending job protections to all workers who take family leave insurance.

A full copy of the report is available online.