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

“Currently, our Temporary Disability Insurance law provides for benefits only during the time the worker is completely unable to work due to a disability. The rigid law doesn’t recognize that some employees can work on a limited basis as they transition back to full-time employment,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “By giving people the option to return on a part-time basis, the state will save 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 would be 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 would provide 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.

“This bill is a win-win for everyone,” said Turner. “Employees who want to get back to work but can’t do it on a full-time basis for a period of time may now have an option. Meanwhile, employers will not be without a full-time employee and work will get done.”

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 bill is 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 bill passed the committee today by a vote of 4 to 0.

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