- New paid leave law in Illinois. The Illinois Legislature passed “The Paid Leave for All Workers Act” Jan. 1 that is set to take effect in 2024.
- Expanded flexibility for employees. Employees would be able to use this paid leave for any reason of the employee’s choosing, and employers could neither require employees to provide a reason for using paid leave nor require employees to provide documentation or certification in support of their need for paid leave.
- Retaliation protections. The law is designed to protect workers from discipline or retaliation for using time off, so employers have limited ability to ask for documentation of the reason for the absence. The legislation also bans employers from imposing negative points or demerits on workers for using the time off.
- Small but growing group. Illinois joins Maine and Nevada as states with mandatory PTO policies for state-based employers. However, legal experts expect other states to follow suit.
Providing paid time off for workers will become mandatory for many Illinois employers under legislation a signature away from becoming law.
The recently passed Illinois legislation titled “The Paid Leave for All Workers Act” (SB208) guarantees workers the ability to accrue paid time off, up to 40 hours or five workdays per year for full-time employees.
Workers could use the time off for any reason, unlike the more common paid sick and safe leave laws that could be set for expansion in a handful more states in 2023, according to Bloomberg.
“Every working Illinoisan knows that sometimes unavoidable circumstances prevent you from doing your job,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in a written statement marking the bill’s passage on Jan. 1, adding that he will sign the legislation.
The benefits would then start accruing Jan. 1, 2024, and workers could start using them after three months.
Paid Leave Law Specifics
Mallory McCarthy, an associate at Reed Smith LLP, said employees would be able to use this paid leave for any reason of the employee’s choosing, and employers “could neither require employees to provide a reason for using paid leave nor require employees to provide documentation or certification in support of their need for paid leave.”
Under the law, employers would also be subject to notice and recordkeeping requirements, she added. But not all Illinois employees and employers would be covered by the act, McCarthy cautioned.
“For example, the paid leave requirements of the act could be waived in a collective bargaining agreement,” she said. “And, the act would not apply to employers that are covered by a municipal or county ordinance requiring them to provide any form of paid leave to their employees — such as the Chicago Paid Sick Leave and Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinances.”
Because it is also designed to protect workers from discipline or retaliation for using time off, companies have limited ability to ask for documentation of the reason for the absence. The legislation also bans employers from imposing negative points or demerits on workers for using the time off.
According to Jill Vorobiev, a partner at Reed Smith, employers are “initially curious” as to whether the act applies to them and their workforce in light of its exceptions.
“Employers also are reviewing their current paid time off or other similar paid leave policies to ensure compliance with the requirements of the act, which provides that employers’ existing paid leave policies are compliant if they provide the minimum amount of leave required by the act and allow employees to use paid leave for any reason, at the employee’s discretion,” she said.
An estimated 86% of workers had access to paid sick days at work in March 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. WorldatWork’s “Total Rewards Inventory Programs and Practices” survey found 56% of employers offered paid sick leave in 2021, while 42% offered paid medical or caregiver leave and 66% offered paid parental leave.
Currently, 14 states plus the District of Columbia require private-sector employers to provide paid sick leave, in some cases also making the leave available for reasons such as childcare needs or escaping domestic abuse.
Upon the enactment of the PTO legislation, Illinois would join only a small handful of states (Maine and Nevada) that mandate paid leave to be used for any reason.
But it’s a group that could be growing due to the recent remote restructuring of the employee experience, McCarthy said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have shifted focus onto employees’ obligations outside the workplace — including employees’ personal and familial obligations,” she said. “As such, we would not be surprised to see more states following suit — or, at least, attempting to do so — with Illinois in the next year or so.”
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