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Taking Care of Family Business

Posted by: Gayle Goldin on 4/24/2012

A total of 392,000 Rhode Islanders pay into the Temporary Disability Insurance Fund.  That’s 78 percent of our workforce.  TDI means the vast majority of Rhode Islanders have a source of wages should they suffer a heart attack, fall down a flight of stairs, need inpatient mental health care, or otherwise become temporarily unable to work.  The majority of Rhode Islanders never use their benefits, yet, many of us feel that our payment each year into TDI is an insurance premium against financial disaster.

In 2004, California, which has a similar TDI program, expanded those benefits to include  paid family leave.  Six weeks of time to care for a loved one with a serious health condition, six weeks to take time to bond with a new child in the home.  Six weeks to take the time fully present when your family needs you most. In 2009, New Jersey made the same investment in their employees and expanded TDI benefits to include paid family leave in their state, too.  The benefits to employees almost go without saying: financial security, the ability to balance work and family obligations, the opportunity to build relationships with a new child in your family. Yet, paid leave is also good for the business sector. In fact, workers who were able to access paid leave are more likely to stay with their employer, which, in turn, lowers turnover costs.

According to a 2011 report entitled, “Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California” employers stated that the paid leave had a positive effect on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover and employee morale.

Over the past few months, the cohort of women involved in Women’s Policy Institute have met with legislators, drafted legislation, met with the Department of Labor and Training, talked with lobbyists, gained support from AARP, SEIU, Senior Agenda Coalition, and testified in front of the Rhode Island House Labor Committee.  Now, we are moving on to testimony in the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee on Thursday April 26h at 2pm. 

While we are leading the effort on this issue, we cannot do it alone. 

Let your elected officials know what paid family leave means to you.  Call, email, or write a letter in support of Senate Bill 2734 and House Bill 7862. Find your legislators' contact information under the Member Contact section on the Rhode Island General Assembly website. Then, tell your friends, your colleagues, and most importantly, your family.  Because it’s time we all had the chance to care for one another.

Contents of this blog constitute the opinion of the author, and the author alone; they do not represent the views and opinions of Women's Fund of Rhode Island.
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