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Senate Bill 1770 would allow people who collecting temporary disability (TDI) benefits to go back to work on a reduced schedule and collect partial benefits. Currently, the TDI law provides for benefits only when employees are completely unable to work. The amount of the new partial TDI benefit is the full-time TDI benefit amount minus the wages paid to the worker during a week. It would be available for up to eight weeks, with potential extensions of up to 12 weeks.
Employers are not required to allow employees to come back on a reduced basis, but if a worker is able to return to work on that basis and the employer doesn’t allow it, the employee will remain eligible for benefits until fully recovered from the disability and able to do the job.
In New Jersey, TDI benefits are equal to 66 and 2/3 percent of the worker’s weekly wage, up to a maximum of 53 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. In 2014, the maximum any person can receive in TDI benefits was $595 a week.
“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,” said bill sponsor State Senator Shirley Turner. “Current law doesn’t recognize that some employees can work on a limited basis as they transition back to full-time employment. By allowing people to get back to work, first on a part-time basis, the state will save money in reduced disability payments.”
According to the New Jersey Senate Democrats, the bill had its inception in 2009, when the state auditor studied potential cost savings for the program and recommended, among other things, 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, which reportedly 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 cleared both chambers of the New Jersey legislature late in 2014.
Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.
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