URI conducting study of state’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance program

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Surveying to gauge awareness, effectiveness

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 26, 2015 – The University of Rhode Island launched a survey recently to begin to measure Rhode Islanders’ awareness of the one-year-old Temporary Caregiver Insurance program and the impact it has had on employees.

Rhode Island officials celebrated the one-year anniversary of the program at the Statehouse on Thursday, Feb. 5.

The research is being funded by a $161,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to Rhode Island’s Department of Labor of Training. Rhode Island’s labor office hired URI as a subcontractor to do the research. The survey process will be completed in a month.

The program provides up to four weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent or to bond with a newborn, adopted child or foster child. Unique to the program is the provision of job protection, so that employees can take leave without fear of losing their jobs. The program is entirely funded by employee payroll deductions. About 4,000 Rhode Islanders have benefited from the program in the last year.

“The Department of Labor and Training hired us to assess how the program is going, what types of employees are taking advantage of the program, and how employees’ believe the program has impacted their lives,” said Barb Silver, assistant research professor at URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center.

Silver, Helen Mederer, URI professor of sociology, who holds a dual appointment at the Labor Research Center, and Emilija Djurdjevic, assistant professor of business, are directing the project. Silver and Mederer co-chair the URI Work-Life Committee.

Silver said the research will be based on a phone survey of up to 500 employees in Rhode Island, half of whom have used the program and half of whom have not. Only those who pay into the state’s temporary disability insurance program may receive temporary caregiver benefits.

The three URI professors will gather and analyze the research, and they will abide by all federal, state and URI regulations applying to such research projects. All participants will remain anonymous.

“Rhode Island is one of only three states to have this program, and so our experience will be watched by states across the nation considering similar legislation,” said Mederer.

“This type of paid leave has been shown to have myriad benefits –for businesses, because when employees thrive, businesses thrive, as well as do individuals, families, and the nation’s health care system, because it promotes wellness,” Silver said.

“Such programs can promote women’s ability to initiate and continue breastfeeding, and they can help men become more involved in family care,” Mederer said.

Silver said such benefits are often more available to higher income earners, with middle and lower income individuals having access less often. So not only may these families suffer disproportionately, but their performance at work may be affected, including even job loss. Mederer added that those who receive better family care often stay out of the health care system or have shorter stays in the system.

“Our research will also look at outcomes important to businesses such as increased job satisfaction and less absenteeism,” Silver said. “The only three countries that do not have national paid family leave programs are the U.S., Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. But Rhode Island can be proud of being a leader in a burgeoning national movement to provide paid leave to its people.”