An innovative new law in Rhode Island, the Temporary Caregiver’s Insurance law, provides for paid time off for workers who must take time off from a job to care for a sick family member. The law will likely provide some much needed relief to thousands of people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic illness in the state.
The law provides up to four weeks of time off at two thirds of salary, to a maximum of $752 a week. The law also protects workers from losing their jobs or health insurance while they are out. It was signed into law in July 2013 and will take effect in 2014.
Currently, only two other states, California and New Jersey, provide any paid time off for caregivers who must take time off to care for an ill family member. Most of Europe and other developed countries, including Canada and Australia, have paid-time-off policies in place, but the United States is lagging in this regard.
In the U.S., the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which has been in effect nationwide for 20 years, allows for time off for workers taking care of a sick family member, but it is unpaid leave. In addition, the federal law only applies to about half the work force, since part-time workers or those who work for employers with fewer than 50 workers are excluded.
The Rhode Island law allows caregivers paid time off to care for sick parents, in-laws, grandparents, spouses, domestic partners or children. It will be funded by a special payroll tax and complements other disability programs in the state.
Caregivers in Rhode Island who take time off will also be eligible to take time off if they themselves should become disabled or ill at another time during the year.
With more than 18 percent of Rhode Island’s population over the age of 60, the law will make it easier for those caring for an aging parent with dementia or other serious health problem to take time off. Proponents hope that it will serve as model to expand paid-time-off benefits for caregivers to more states nationwide.
The program will be administered by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Additional information can be found at their Web site: http://www.dlt.state.ri.us/.