Illinois Businesses Must Give Workers Time Off ‘For Any Reason’

Illinois Businesses Must Give Workers Time Off ‘For Any Reason’
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a rally at Federal Building Plaza in Chicago on April 27, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Bryan Jung

Illinois has passed a law ordering businesses to give workers paid leave for any reason.

The state becomes one of three that requires employers to offer the generous leave benefits, after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the law on Mar. 14, which will take effect next year on Jan. 1, reported the Associated Press.

“Too many people can’t afford to miss even a day’s pay ... together we continue to build a state that truly serves as a beacon for families, and businesses, and good-paying jobs,” said Pritzker during the signing.

Maine and Nevada are the other two states that allow earned paid time time off and force employers to allow their workers how to use it.

Companies in Illinois will now offer workers paid time off based on hours worked, without explaining the reason for their absence. Workers still have to provide notice in accordance with reasonable employer standards.

The main difference between the Illinois law and the other states is that it is unencumbered by limits based on business size.

Similar regulations mandate that employers offer paid sick leave in 14 states and in Washington, D.C., but is only required for health-related reasons.

Paid Leave Law Is the Most Generous in the Nation

Workers can now accumulate one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours total, but Illinois-based employers are allowed to offer more.

All employees can start using their leave time once they have worked for 90 days, but seasonal workers remain exempt from the law. This includes federal employees or college students who work non-full-time, temporary jobs at their university.

Any local laws enacted after the new paid leave law must provide benefits that are greater or equal to that of the state’s.

Regulations in Cook County and Chicago already required employers to offer paid sick leave since July 2017, and workers there will continue to be covered by those existing laws rather than the new state mandates.

However, critics say the new law worsen the financial situation for small businesses recovering from the pandemic and almost two years of skyrocketing inflation.

Chris Davis, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told the Associated Press that local business owners are better equipped than the state to address individual employees’ needs.

The paid leave law is “a one-size-fits-all solution to a more intricate problem,” he complained.

Proponents of the Law Say It Will Benefit Workers’ Needs

Proponents of the paid leave bill will enable workers, especially those in low-income workers roles, to take time off when needed without fear of retaliation from an employer.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democrat from Peoria, Illinois, and the bill’s sponsor, said in a press statement that her law is the product of years of negotiations with businesses and labor groups.

“Everyone deserves the ability to take time off,” she said. “Whether it’s to deal with the illness of a family member, or take a step back for your mental health, enshrining paid leave rights is a step forward for our state.”

“This is about bringing dignity to all workers,” Gordon Booth said at the signing.

Molly Weston Williamson, a paid leave expert at the Center for American Progress, told the Associated Press that the state law “creates a strong foundation for employers to build from while generating a healthier, more productive workforce.”

However, she said that existing federal paid leave laws remain “wildly out of line with all of our economic peers internationally” and hurt working families.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
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