What our members need to know about the NJ Return And Earn Program

New Jersey Department of Labor Business Services has announced the “Return and Earn” program designed to ease and incentivize the re-hiring of workers displaced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new program is an adaptation of the existing “OJT” or “On-The-Job Training” contract program that you may already be familiar with, but with the addition of a $500 incentive payment made to approved new hires in their first paycheck.

Here’s what you need to know:

• You must pay out the $500 return-to-work payment to the new hire in their first paycheck. This will be reimbursed to you by the State. This must be an additional bonus on top of any other you are offering to other employees.
• The new hire must be a new hire; it cannot be a returning former employee.
• The new hire cannot be a family member.
• The new hire must be a New Jersey resident working full-time.
• The new hire is only eligible for the payment if s/he works a full pay cycle.
• This program is not and cannot be retroactive. You must work with us in the program from start to finish: we must approve your company, the job, and the prospective employee.

About the job:

• The position must pay at least $15/hr. It must be a regular (not seasonal) position, and must pay W-2 wages (no 1099 or “independent contractor” arrangements). The job cannot be commission-based.
• The job must be full time, which means more than 32 hours per week.
• Your business or Non Profit organization must have fewer than 100 employees.
• The maximum amount that this contract can pay out is $10,000—but there is no guarantee you will receive the maximum benefit. This will be determined by the contract (more on that a little later).
• If approved for multiple contracts, the maximum amount your business can receive is $40,000—but there is no guarantee you will receive the maximum benefit.

How it works:

First, you must list your job with your local One-Stop Career Center (I’m your contact). You can do so online

The One-Stop Career Center will work with you to try to source a candidate. You should also continue with your own recruitment efforts. Whether you find the candidate or we do, s/he will have to be vetted by us to determine eligibility.

Once you have a candidate you like, we must determine what specific skills s/he lacks that are required to do the job. This is demonstrated by a comparison of their resume against a written job description (two documents we’ll need before issuing the contract). The Department can subsidize the training of that individual to get them up to the level of your other candidates via an OJT contract.

The contract works like this:

• You decide on five training benchmarks
• DOL negotiates a realistic timeframe for the candidate to achieve those benchmarks and be brought up-to-speed
• The length of time required for the candidate to pick up the relevant skills is called the “training contract period.”
• During that period of time, the State would reimburse you 50% of the trainee’s wages. You would provide monthly progress reports on the trainee’s performance.

An important point: you must indicate an intent to hire (by providing the appropriate form) at least five (5) business days before the individual starts working. You can’t pursue a training grant for someone already working for you.

If you believe you are eligible and would like to proceed, please start by listing your qualifying position here.

Experiencing a pandemic – related labor Shortage? Post to the COVID 19 Hiring Portal here