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Paid Family Leave in Rhode Island

Paid Family Leave in Rhode Island

August 29, 2016

In Rhode Island, a majority of the workforce contributes a small amount into an insurance fund called Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI). Started back in 1942 — the first such program in the nation — TDI pools the contributions so workers who need to take time to care for themselves because of a serious illness or injury can draw wages during that leave. Until the late 1970s, pregnancy was excluded (New Jersey’s fund lumped pregnancy with “injuries that were willfully self-inflicted or incurred during the perpetration of a high misdemeanor”). But that changed with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. TDI now covers leave for self-care during pregnancy and childbirth, so that a pregnant employee has adequate time to recuperate after giving birth.

In 2013, Rhode Island passed into law Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI), an expansion of the state’s existing state Temporary Disability Insurance, so that people could also receive wage replacement when they need to care for a seriously ill loved one, or to care for a new child. TCI is available for up to 4 weeks a year; workers provide documentation for the need for leave that is then verified by the state.

Paid family leave is common sense. After just one year, research shows that people who use Rhode Island’s TCI find it easier to take care of themselves and their loved ones, attend doctor’s appointments more consistently, and feel a greater reduction of stress. They are also more likely to return to work after the leave, and use less time off in the year following the event than other people who had a similar life event but did not use TCI.

Businesses in Rhode Island also have a favorable opinion of TCI and found that it had no impact on their day-to-day operations. Similarly, when people were surveyed about their co-workers taking leave, a majority of workers believed that other people taking time – even if that meant their own job responsibilities increased – was not a problem.

TCI is also helping moving our state towards gender equality. Nearly 1/3rd of all people taking time off to care for a loved one are men, which is helping to change cultural beliefs about caregiving.

Rhode Island’s TDI/TCI, which is state-run insurance, serves as a model for other states looking to create their own program. Rhode Island is one of only five states with statewide Temporary Disability Insurance, and the third of four states to create paid family leave.  That number will be changing soon!

If you’d like to hear more about how TCI is working for Rhode Islanders, you can read stories in our story bank. If you’d to get involved in a coalition in your own community, let us know.