RI Family Leave
Rhode Island Parental & Family Medical Leave Act
The Rhode Island Family and Medical Leave Act (RIFMLA) is an important maternity benefit for couples in the Ocean State. Its federal counterpart the (FMLA) provides similar job protections. There are subtle variations in the two regulations, and some key features in the RI version that provide important paid leave options for couples experiencing specific sets of circumstances.
RI Family Medical Leave: Eligibility Guidelines
The Rhode Island Family Medical Leave Act (RIFMLA) allows for 13 weeks of unpaid leave over a 24 month period. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the leave, and must have averaged 30 hours of work over that time.
The Rhode Island Family Leave applies to employers as follows:
* Private employees - with 50 or more employees worldwide
You may qualify for job protection benefits for parental or family leave. Each has unique eligibility guidelines. Parental leave is available for either the birth of a newborn child or the employee, or the adoption of a child age sixteen or younger. Family leave may be taken to address the serious illness of a family member. Serious illness and family member definitions are spelled out on the RI Department of Labor website.
You have a right to re-instatement to previous position or one that is equivalent in terms of benefits, pay, and other conditions of employment.
RI Family Medical Leave vs the FMLA
The (FMLA) is a federal law, whereas the Rhode Island Act applies to RI workers only. The two laws are very similar leaving this writer to wonder why have a separate state law if it does not provide additional protection for it's citizens? The advantages of the separate regulation fall into two categories.
Rhode Island Paid Family Leave
The RIFMLA provides for unpaid job protected leave. The law’s primary intent is make certain that protected workers can be restored to their positions after taking time to care for a family member, or address their own disability. The key element in both the federal and RI statutes is that an employee’s own serious medical condition qualifies under the law. Rhode Island law also mandates that certain employees must participate in a temporary disability program that may act like paid family leave insurance under this specific set of circumstances.
In maternity situations mom may enjoy six to eight weeks of paid parental leave time so that she may bond with her baby. Purchasing a private policy covering pregnancy can help her increase the level of paid leave, or just lengthen the amount of time she can afford to stay at home.
Paid family leave will be much harder to find if the qualifying reason relates to caring for a sick family member: parent, child, etc. Since one or both parents are perfectly healthy, disability benefits are not payable.
Rhode Island FMLA and Unemployment Insurance
In Rhode Island there are a limited number of instances where you may be able to use unemployment insurance benefits while taking leave. The most common instance occurs with women taking maternity leave.
Many women work for smaller employers not covered under the RIFMLA. Once recovering from childbirth, she may find she is no longer employed, and may be able to collect benefits. The second scenario occurs when mom needs to leave work prior to delivery to take bed rest. The total amount of time away from work may exceed 13 weeks, and put her in the same situation - a lost job with good cause.
Effective January 1, 2011 Rhode Island utilized federal unemployment compensation modernization incentives to expand ways benefits may be paid. Workers may now tap benefits for voluntary discharge due to an illness or disability of a family member. This definition fits many but not all of the requirements for job protection benefits under Rhode Island FMLA and may also work as "paid family leave insurance".
Sources: Rhode Island Dept of Labor and Training: Family and Medical Leave, Unemployment Insurance