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Smart Benefits: How 3 New RI Laws Will Affect Employers

Monday, July 29, 2013

 

Three laws passed on Smith Hill this session will impact employers--are you ready for the changes?

Soon, Rhode Island-based employers – regardless of size – will have to follow three new state laws. Two are effective January 1, 2014, while the third awaits signature from Governor Chafee.

Temporary Caregiver Bill

Rhode Island’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program will be expanded as a result of a new state law that extends both state and federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. Employees who need to take time out of work to care for a family member will now have up to four weeks of leave. The definition of family member under the law is wide and includes newborns, newly adopted children, and relatives (e.g. children, spouses, domestic partners, parents, parent-in-laws or grandparents).

And the leave is without consequence when returning to work. That means the employees must be able to come back to the same, or equivalent, position as when they left work.

This detail of the law differs from how TDI currently works for an employee taking time for their own temporary disability. While an employee in this situation qualifies for up to 30 weeks of TDI benefits, the current law does not provide for continuation of health insurance or job restoration at the end of the leave.

However, before taking the leave, employees must complete some required steps:

  • Employees must give 30 days notice to their employer (at times, due to individual conditions, employers may have to accept less notice)
  • Employees must file a certificate form with the Department of Labor and Training that includes the diagnosis and diagnosis code, date the situation occurred and expected duration.
  • Employees must get attestation by a health care provider of the time needed to care for the family member.
  • Employees must get a statement from the health care provider that the employee is needed to provide the care.


During the time of leave, the employee may take concurrent time with FMLA or RIPFMLA.

Minimum Wage Increase

The employee minimum wage will increase on January 1, 2014, from the current $7.75 per hour to $8.00 per hour.

Bi-Weekly Pay

Currently, Rhode Island is the only state in the country that requires weekly wages for non-exempt, private sector employees. But that may soon change as Governor Chafee is expected to sign into law a bill that would allow private sector employers to pay employees every other week.

The new law would mean many advantages for employers, including:

  • Payroll processing time would decrease as would payroll processing
  • errors
  • Payroll vendor fees will likely decrease because of fewer transactions and number of checks
  • Employers will have less paperwork to file and store


Employers who want to take advantage of these benefits can petition the Department of Labor and Training (“DLT”) for permission to pay hourly employees on a “less than weekly basis.” They just have to have an average payroll that is at least 200 percent of minimum wage. Employers who don't meet this condition and are in good standing may also petition DLT if they provide a “good and sufficient” reason for needing to do so.

Multistate employers based in Rhode Island need to be aware of other state laws and how this change here affects paying employees living in other states. Employers should also take into account accounting considerations before finalizing decisions on converting to bi-weekly pay. 

Amy Gallagher has over 19 years of healthcare industry experience. As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on long-term cost-containment strategies, consumer-driven solutions and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, is a member of local organizations like the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, HRM-RI, SHRM, WELCOA, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council, and participates in the Lieutenant Governor’s Health Benefits Exchange work group of the Health Care Reform Commission.

 

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