PROVIDENCE – As of Wednesday, Jan. 1, Rhode Island workers will have access to four weeks per year of job-protected leave to care for a new child or tend to a seriously ill relative.
Under the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law, approved by the General Assembly in July, Rhode Island joins California and New Jersey as the only states requiring companies to offer parental and family leave paid out of a pool of employee paycheck contributions.
The law amended the state’s existing Temporary Disability Insurance program to allow employees to collect short-term disability benefits to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, or to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child.
To receive temporary disability benefits while on parental or family leave, employees must file an application with the R.I. Department of Labor and Training and notify their employer at least 30 days before the leave will begin, unless unable to give notification due to unforeseeable circumstances. Employees can begin applying for Temporary Caregiver Insurance on Jan. 5.
While providing for similar circumstances, the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law is not related to the existing Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act, which requires companies that employ 50 or more workers to provide 13 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, while the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law applies to all TDI employers and includes the option for employees to receive temporary disability benefits.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, an employee could take four weeks of paid leave under the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law and then take 13 weeks of unpaid leave under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act for a total of 17 weeks of leave in a single year.
Although no federal law mandates paid family leave, several other states – including Massachusetts – have pending paid-leave laws similar to the one going into effect in Rhode Island.
Also beginning Wednesday, the Rhode Island minimum wage is set to rise to $8 an hour from $7.75 an hour, the state’s second consecutive year increasing the minimum wage.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the change will directly affect 9,000 workers who currently make less than $8 an hour, as well as 14,000 other employees whose pay scales will be automatically adjusted upward following the increase.
With the 25-cent increase, Rhode Island lifts its minimum wage to match that of Massachusetts and joins 13 other states imposing higher minimum wages in the new year, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The original version of this story incorrectly stated that workers could receive 13 weeks of paid leave under the the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law. Workers can receive four weeks of paid leave. In addition, the original story incorrectly stated that the Temporary Caregiver Insurance law only applies to employers with 50 or more employees; it applies to all TDI employers.