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R.I. Passes Family Leave Law Granting New Parents, Temporary Caregivers Benefits

July 9, 2013 — The Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill (S 231) in the final hours of its legislative session that would provide up to four weeks of "temporary wage replacement benefits" to workers who take time off to care for a new child or sick family member, Rhode Island Public Radio's "The Pulse" reports.

The bill now heads to Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I), who is expected to sign it. The measure would take effect on Jan. 1.

Bill Details

The bill would pay for benefits similar to those in the state's existing temporary disability insurance program, or TDI, which covers an employee's own temporary disability but is not supposed to be used as maternity leave. The bill also would require employers to continue paying a portion of workers' health benefits while they are on leave and allow workers to return to their jobs afterward.

Under the measure, employees could take leave for reasons such as caring for a newborn, a newly adopted child, a new foster or step child they are legally responsible for, or a seriously ill domestic partner or family member. Employees who wish to take leave would need to submit a written request, and all medical paperwork would be kept confidential.

The measure would not increase direct costs for employers because employees will contribute wages to a pool for those who need to use leave, which is similar to the funding mechanism for state's TDI program.

The bill would benefit employees who work for companies that do not provide paid parental leave or other types of paid leave for workers to take care of family members. While some large companies in the state do provide paid leave, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act only requires that they offer unpaid leave and give workers a right to return to their jobs for up to 12 weeks. Smaller companies are not required to offer any leave under FMLA (Gourlay, "The Pulse," Rhode Island Public Radio, 7/5).