TURNER BILL ESTABLISHING A COST-SAVING PARTIAL DISABILITY BENEFIT TO HELP WORKERS TRANSITION BACK TO THE JOB ADVANCES

Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer)

TRENTON — Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would allow people to return to work on a part-time basis and collect disability benefits was approved today by the full Senate. The bill would allow temporarily disabled workers to transition back to work while saving the state money.

“The state’s Temporary Disability Insurance program only provides for benefits during the time a worker is completely unable to work due to a disability. It does not recognize that some employees can work on a limited basis as they transition back to full-time employment,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “By allowing people to get back to work, first on a part-time basis, this bill will save the state money in reduced disability payments.”

Under the bill, S-1770, a worker would only be able to receive part time TDI benefits after the worker has been completely unable to work due to disability and has received full TDI benefits for at least seven days. There is a cap of eight weeks for the partial benefit, and employers would be allowed to offer the part-time benefit but not required.

Currently, the TDI law provides for benefits only during the time that the worker is completely unable to work due to the disability. The bill provides that the amount of the part-time TDI benefit is the full-time TDI benefit amount minus the wages paid to the worker during a week.

“Employees who want to get back to work but can’t do it full-time will have the option of transitioning back to work first on a part-time basis. This will aid employers who will have the benefit of the employee back in the workplace contributing to the workload,” added Turner.

In 2009, the state Auditor presented a report to the Legislature regarding TDI benefits. The audit made various findings and suggested opportunities for cost savings, including a recommendation that the state look into implementing a partial return to work program to reduce payments to claimants.

The legislation sponsored by the senator was based on a partial TDI benefit program implemented in Rhode Island in 2007.  It is reported that the program resulted in savings of $977,000 for that state’s TDI fund during its first 18 months of operation.  A majority of both employers and employees surveyed at that time found the program beneficial.

The Senate approved the bill, with the Governor’s recommendations, by a vote of 38-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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