Another exception to the rule is if your worker is age 14 or 15, and if they do not work for you for more than 24 hours in a week. Then you can pay them 75 percent of the regular Rhode Island minimum wage. Do the math, and that comes to $5.55 per hour.
Then there are exceptions of the Rhode Island minimum wage rule that allow employers to pay their employees the federal minimum wage, or whatever else they are legally allowed to pay below the regular Rhode Island minimum wage rate. These workers include those in the domestic service business that work in a private home.
Any worker involved in voluntary service or working for the federal government, or if they work at a charity of religious, non profit, or educational nature. That makes sense, by the way, since the very definition of volunteer means that you do not get paid at all. Also on this list of flat exceptions to the Rhode Island minimum wage rule are newspaper delivery people, golf caddies, shoe shine men, theater ushers, and outside sales men and women.
The law also makes exceptions for service employees at resort type places, that are open only in the summer or the winter months (depending on whether they are water attractions or skiing attractions). The rule is that the establishment can be open no more than six months out of the year. If so, they do not have to pay their wait staff the full minimum wage.
All of these exceptions, as far as I know, were there in the former Rhode Island minimum wage law, before all of the changes this past January, so the purpose here is to show that despite the change to the overall Rhode Island minimum wage rate, many things have still stayed the same in the state.
I had mentioned the Rhode Island minimum wage in the context of all that training talk we just got done in the last couple blog posts, but should not I get back to my review of state minimum wage changes—and low and behold, there I am, my next state in the list being Rhode Island. Coincidence? I think not. I planned it that way, my loyal readers. But would you ever doubt otherwise? Again, I think not.
Anyway, fun and games aside, let’s roll up our sleeves and take a good look at what is going on in Rhode Islands when it comes to the state minimum wage. Not too much has happened lately in the state in this regard. There have been no big debates such as in Indiana, New Mexico, Missouri, or some of the other states that we have looked at. The minimum wage increase has not been debated and shot down, as we saw in some other states out there, such as Alabama.
What did happen in Rhode Island, though, is that the Rhode Island minimum wage increased on January 1, 2007, as it was supposed to, and it went up for $7.40 per hour for all employees who are age 16 and older. This rate puts Rhode Island as one of the highest in the country; however, that rate does not apply for all citizens and employees in the state.
For instance, if you have a full time student on your books as a worker, and they work for you in a non profit, community service, or religious setting, or they work for you in an educational setting (such as in a library), then you do not have to pay them the full minimum wage. You can instead pay them 90 percent of the Rhode Island minimum wage, or $6.66 per hour.
Many of these grants in Rhode Island are going to what the state considers high wage industries. These are companies where employees tend to make the highest wages and have the highest technical or professional expertise, and so training could either make more of these types of professionals, or hone the skills of those who already are out there. In fact, of those 69 grants I mentioned earlier, 49 of them are in these types of industries. These companies could be in insurance or some other form of financial services. They could include companies involved in trading wholesale, or in construction or manufacturing. These employers could also be in some sort of professional, business, or scientific industry.
The grant program has been around since September of 2005, and in that time, it has given employers about $11 million in investments to help them train and prepare their employees for the 21st century economy. The workforce board that gives out the grants through the governor’s office and the Department of Labor and Training, have a staff of 17 employees, so they are always out there looking for new employers to give grants to. Hint hint.
To be eligible to get one of these training grants, as I said before, one of the requisites is that employers have to match whatever money they get from the state of Rhode Island, and put it all to the training program that they have in mind. Plus, to be able to get these grants, the employer must be paying their employees at least in average an hourly wage of $11.10 per hour, which equals about roughly one and a half time the current Rhode Island minimum wage, which currently is set at $7.40 per hour.
The state gets the money on its end by putting an assessment on your payroll taxes, of about .21 percent.
The state of Rhode Island is not only changing the way that it does health care insurance for its employers. It is also changing the way that it allows employers to do training of their employees. In fact, it is making the training easier—by helping to pay for it for many of the state’s employers. To be exact, as many as 69 companies in the state of Rhode Island, involving more than 4000 employees in the state, are now looking at more than $1.3 million to share in order to train their employees. The program is meant to give Rhode Island employers grants to support development of training programs through employer sponsorship.
The program is organized by the Governor’s Workforce Board. It includes some of the states biggest employers, such as Citizens Bank, Cox Communications, and General Dynamics, but it also surely includes all sizes of employers as well. The grants typically come in sizes up to $50000, from the Department of Labor and Training overall. And these funds do not come for free. As I said, Rhode Island employers, these grants are meant to stimulate employer-sponsored training program, so you must sponsor the training program and put up matching money in order to get the grants in the first place.
The reason for these grants, says the governor of Rhode Island, Gov. Carcieri, is to encourage employers to develop the work force of tomorrow today. All employers are aware of the stiff competition out there for the top employees, and the competition to retain these employees once you get them on your books. In this way, the grant program tackles two issues. It provides an incentive that employers can offer, training, that could attract top talent to a company, as well as provides incentive for employees stay once they are there. Plus, these workers who get trained can then turn around and become even better employees down the road.
So, will all these different ideas ever become a reality in Rhode Island and will you employers ever feel some relief from the ever increasing costs of health care insurance? Well, according to my experts in the state of Rhode Island, these proposals are on the way to becoming the law of the land as we speak. That would put Rhode Island up with Massachusetts as states that have actively pursued reforms that will change the way that employers handle their health care benefits responsibilities.
In the case of the plan coming from the health insurance commission—which by the way is called the WellCare plan—that could be online and useable by employers by the start or the middle of this coming fall. Some predict the start date sometime in October.
The other plan in the works, the one coming out of the House Finance Committee from its Chairman Costantino, was slated to begin working as early as this July. But the insurance companies and the law makers have not completely workers out all of the details about how these new health insurance policies will work (with all of the benefits becoming optional and some services and provider networks being shrunk), so don’t expect insurance companies to start offering trimmed down, cheaper insurance plans until this coming January 1, 2008, say my sources.
And remember, with Costantino, the plans are all optional on the part of the insurance companies, so even though they could offer these cheaper insurance plans, your insurance company does not necessary have to start offering them right away, or at all. They could wait and see what happens to other insurance companies that offer these programs.
Either way, word from employers and their reps in the state is that they are excited about them. As many as three out of four members of the Chamber of Commerce in the state’s major city, Providence, suggested that they might start giving health insurance to their employees because of these plans.