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Rhode Island’s temporary caregiver leave law takes effect January 1

by Timothy C. Cavazza

As of January 1, 2014, Rhode Island’s temporary disability insurance program will be expanded to cover employees taking temporary caregiver leave.

Leave will be available to employees “to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or to bond with a new child.” An employee who is “unable to perform his or her regular and customary work” for those reasons may receive up to four weeks of temporary caregiver benefits per year. Benefits will be determined and paid for by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT) in accordance with the state’s temporary disability insurance program.

Temporary caregiver leave is similar in some respects to leave granted under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA). For example:

  • Employees must give written notice at least 30 days before the commencement of caregiver leave unless the leave is “unforeseeable.”
  • Employers must maintain existing health benefits for employees during the period of caregiver leave, subject to employees paying their normal contribution.
  • At the expiration of caregiver leave, employees are entitled to be restored to the position they held before the leave or to a position with “equivalent seniority, status, employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

Employers may require caregiver leave to run concurrently with FMLA and RIPFMLA leave. Unlike leave under the FMLA and the RIPFMLA, however, qualifying caregiver leave must be provided regardless of the employer’s size. Also, the hour and service requirements for employees that exist under those laws don’t apply. Instead, an employee’s eligibility for temporary caregiver leave will be determined by the RIDLT through a certification process similar to the process under the FMLA.

For more information on this topic and other new laws in Rhode Island, see “Legislative update: What’s new for Rhode Island employers in 2013?” in the August issue of Rhode Island Employment Law Letter.

Timothy C. Cavazza is an attorney with Whelan, Kinder & Siket LLP in Providence, Rhode Island. He can be reached at tcavazza@whelankindersiket.com.