On January 10, 2023, in one of its first acts of the new legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 208. This Act, known as the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, will require employers to provide paid leave to most workers for any reason, drastically expanding worker leave entitlements in Illinois.
Most importantly for employers, the Act — one of the most expansive leave laws in the nation — contains the following key provisions:
- Employees who work in Illinois are entitled to earn and use at least 40 hours of paid leave for any reason during a 12-month period. Employees must accrue paid leave at a rate of no less than one hour for every 40 hours worked.
- Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours a week for paid leave accrual purposes, unless their regular workweek is less than 40 hours (in which case paid leave must accrue based on their regular workweek).
- Alternatively, employers may choose to front load their employees’ paid leave instead of tracking accruals.
- If an employer chooses to front load paid leave, they may adopt a use-it-or-lose-it policy in which the employee must use all paid leave prior to the end of the benefit year or forfeit unused leave. Otherwise, paid leave must carryover year to year.
- While on paid leave, employees must be paid their hourly rate of pay.
- Employees must begin to accrue paid leave at the commencement of employment or on the effective date of the Act, whichever is later.
- Employees are entitled to use paid leave no later than 90 days after the commencement of employment or on the effective date of the Act, whichever is later.
- Employers are not required to pay out unused paid leave upon the employee’s separation from employment.
The requirements of Senate Bill 208 are not the law of the land in Illinois quite yet. Though the bill has passed both houses, it has not yet been signed by Governor JB Pritzker. But Governor Pritzker, a longtime supporter of expanding worker rights in the state, has showed enthusiastic support for the Act, releasing a press release when the bill was passed indicating his intention to sign the bill into law. Once he does so, the new law will go into effect on January 1, 2024, giving Illinois employers just under a year to revise their paid leave policies to come into compliance.
With the passage of the Act, Illinois will join a small but growing group of states — including Maine and Nevada — to mandate paid leave for any reason.
To date, thirteen states have enacted paid family and medical leave, with several others proposing to adopt such statewide mandates. The Illinois Paid Leave for all Workers Act goes one step further than these other state paid leave programs in that it does not limit the employee’s use of leave to specific, defined circumstances. In fact, the Act explicitly prohibits employers from requiring employees to provide a reason for their leave or provide documentation or certification in connection with their leave.
Prior to passing the Paid Leave for All Workers’ Act, mandated paid leave in Illinois was limited and could be found under local ordinances such as the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance. Illinois’ new paid leave Act does not preempt these ordinances, and employers in Chicago and Cook County who are already subject to these ordinances are not required to comply with the Act and may continue to provide paid sick leave under the city and county ordinances.
However, the Act mandates that local ordinances providing for paid leave enacted or amended in the future must set leave provisions that are as or more generous than those in the Act. Chicago and Cook County employers who are subject to these paid sick leave ordinances must be cognizant of the possibility that these municipalities will expand their paid leave requirements to match or exceed the broad requirements of the Illinois Paid Leave for All Workers Act.