2013-02-07 / News

Proposed bill would extend TDI coverage

On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the federal Family Medical Leave Act, state Sen. Gayle Goldin introduced legislation Tuesday to create a program that would expand temporary disability insurance to employees who must take time out of work to care for a family member or bond with a new child in their home.

Temporary disability insurance is a state program, and of the five states nationwide that have such statewide programs, California and New Jersey allow it to be used by caregivers, not just those who are suffering the illness or injury themselves. Research on the California program has shown that the introduction of paid family leave has had positive effect on employee productivity, performance and overall profitability of businesses.

Overall, companies in both states have reported savings from increased employee retention and lower turnover cost.

The federal act covers employees at firms with 50 or more employees, and allows a worker to take unpaid time off from work to care for a family member without the risk of losing his or her job. Goldin’s legislation would expand the state’s TDI program so it will cover up to eight weeks of wage replacement for workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill spouse, child, parent or domestic partner. It will also cover time taken off to bond with a new child, whether through birth, adoption or foster care. Temporary caregiver benefits would be limited to those who are the caregiver of their sick or injured family member, and the program would require documentation from a licensed health care provider.

The expansion would be funded through employee contributions, just as the rest of the TDI program is currently funded. In order to support the expanded benefits, employees would contribute approximately 0.1 percent more in the first year. For workers earning $43,000 a year, this would mean each would pay 83 cents a week to participate in the expanded benefit.

In Rhode Island, private-sector employees – 78 percent of the workforce – pay into TDI and have it available to them if they should become temporarily disabled. This legislation would mean each worker pays a little bit more, but, in return, would be protected from wage loss should a family member need his or her care.

The bill would limit the benefit to eight weeks per year, and contains a provision that would stop a worker from trying to take temporary caregiver benefits and temporary disability benefits for the same purpose. However, should an employee suffer his or her own disability or illness the same year as taking temporary caregiver benefits, he or she would also be able to access the full amount of his or her own temporary disability benefits that year, provided the total over the course of the year is no more than 30 weeks of his or her income.

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