Rhode Island Legislature Makes Paid Leave History!

Debra L. Ness

Today, the Rhode Island legislature became the third in the nation to pass a law that guarantees workers paid time off to care for seriously ill family members and new children. With this strong and comprehensive bill, Rhode Island’s action today marks the greatest paid leave advance since the implementation of New Jersey’s paid family leave law in 2009.

When Governor Chafee signs the bill into law, Rhode Island will join California and New Jersey in promoting working families’ economic stability through the passage and implementation of paid leave programs. Washington state has taken substantial steps to try to ensure new parents can take paid leave, but its program has been indefinitely delayed.

Rhode Island’s bill builds upon the state’s existing temporary disability insurance program to include temporary caregiver insurance, providing up to four weeks of wage replacement to employees who take time off to care for an ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, parent-in-law, domestic partner, or to bond with a new child. It includes job protection and the continuation of health benefits during periods of leave.

As we know from studies of the programs in California and New Jersey, private employers’ policies and workers’ experiences, paid leave policies are good for working families, business and the economy. With this victory, Rhode Island lawmakers, advocates and workers have shown that progress is possible, and that efforts to support the development of state-based paid leave proposals — such as the Obama administration’s proposed state paid leave fund — are more important than ever.

We look forward to Rhode Island’s bill becoming law, and more victories to come. As states continue to take action to help ensure working families have access to the paid leave they need, the case for a national paid leave program will become that much stronger.

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