Turner Bill to Help People on Disability Return to Work Sooner Passed by the Senate

Senator Turner

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner to establish a program for people who are on disability to be able to return to work sooner, while still receiving their Temporary Disability Insurance, cleared the Senate today.

The bill, S-844, would permit the payment of temporary disability insurance (TDI) benefits on a reduced basis to temporarily disabled workers who are otherwise eligible for TDI benefits but are only able to return to work on a reduced basis while recovering from disability.

“This will allow employees receiving temporary disability to slowly transition back to work by initially working on a part-time basis. It will also provide cost savings to the TDI fund by reducing benefit costs during those transitions, saving the State money,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Working part-time allows employees to productively work without overexerting themselves, avoiding the possibility of getting reinjured.”

The bill is based on a partial TDI benefit program implemented in Rhode Island in 2006. According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, it is reported that over 325 claimants returned to work on a partial basis and still received partial TDI benefits. Savings to the TDI system are estimated at $261,000.  A majority of both employers and employees surveyed at that time found the program beneficial.  The Temporary Disability Insurance State Plan is a benefit program which partially offsets wage loss suffered by employees because of their inability to perform regular job duties due to non-occupational illness or injury.

S-844 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.  The bill would set a maximum duration of eight weeks for partial benefits, unless the Division of Unemployment Insurance, after a review of medical documentation, approves an extension beyond eight weeks, but not more than 12 weeks in any case.

The bill would also provide that employers would not be required to permit a worker to return to work on a reduced basis.  If a worker is able to return to work on a reduced basis but the employer does not permit the worker to do so, the worker would remain eligible for benefits until fully recovered from the disability and able to perform the duties of employment.  The bill would not, in any case, increase the total number of weeks of disability benefits for a worker.

Currently, the TDI law provides for benefits only during the time that the worker is completely unable to work due to the disability.

S-844 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0, and will next head to the Assembly for further consideration.