In its final hours, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a new law that will, in its first year, provide up to four weeks of "temporary wage replacement benefits" to workers who take time off to care for a sick family member or to bond with a new child - biological, adopted, foster, or otherwise. The bill is awaiting the governor's signature, which it's expected to receive, and would go into effect in January 2014.
Good news for workers without paid leave
This is great news for workers whose employers don't provide paid maternity or paternity leave, or any other kind of paid leave for employees who want, or need, to take care of a family member. There may be some big companies in Rhode Island that provide paid leave, but it seems an uncommon luxury. Employers with fewer than 50 employees don't necessarily have to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees employees of "covered employers" (those with 50 or more employees and public agencies, for example) up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and the right to return to their jobs. Also, the state's temporary disability insurance program, or TDI, is not, technically, supposed to cover maternity leave for the purposes of bonding with a new child. Rather, TDI is meant to cover the employee's own temporary disability (which could be recovering from birth or a c-section).
- The law would pay benefits similar to what you'd get with TDI.
- It also requires your employer to let you return to your job, and to keep paying their portion of any health benefits you receive.
- You can take up to four weeks in the law's first year - 2014 - and a bit more in coming years.
- You'll have to submit paperwork for whatever reason you request leave, though all medical records will be kept confidential.
- And you can't draw TDI and TCI benefits at the same time.
- Like TDI, TCI won't cost employers anything. Employees pay into it, like they do now with TDI, to create a pool of money for those who need it to use it.
- Reasons for leave can include caring for a newborn, an newly adopted child, a new foster child, a new stepchild, a child you're newly legally responsible for, etc. And they can include taking care of a seriously ill family member or domestic partner.