On Monday, March 13, 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Paid Leave for Workers Act into law, adding Illinois to the list of now three states that require employers to offer paid leave for any reason. Below we’ve gone over everything you need to know regarding the new act. Taking effect on January 1, 2024, the Paid Leave for Workers Act will ensure that employees working in the state of Illinois will be entitled to earn and use at least 40 hours of paid leave time during a 12-month period and that the leave must accrue at the rate of at least one hour for every 40 hours worked.
Who Is Covered Under the Paid Leave for Workers Act?
According to the act, it requires that employers with at least one “employee” provide paid leave. Under the act, the term employee serves the same application and meaning as the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, including domestic workers, state and local governments, and political subdivisions, but excluding school and park districts. As previously mentioned, under the act, those who are covered are required to provide paid leave that accrues at the rate of one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked up to a minimum of 40 hours. Employers are also eligible to provide their workers with a greater amount of paid leave.
Employees are eligible to determine how much paid leave they need to use at a time. However, according to the act, “...employers may set a reasonable minimum increment for the use of paid leave not to exceed 2 hours per day. If an employee's scheduled workday is less than 2 hours a day, the employee's scheduled workday shall be used to determine the amount of paid leave.” An employee is entitled to begin using their paid leave 90 days after their employment or 90 days after the act's effective date. Employers that provide the minimum number of paid leave hours to their employees on the first day or the first day of the 12-month period are not required to carry over paid leave hours. They can also require their employees to use up their paid leave before the end of the benefit period or forfeit any unused paid leave.
Employees Can Use Their Paid Leave for Anything
Employees are able to use their paid leave for almost any reason of their employees choosing, as long as it is taken in accordance with the provisions of this act. They are also not required to provide their employer with a reason for using their leave. So long as they have accrued the hours, they can use them. However, employees must request their leave either orally or have it written per their employers' reasonable paid leave policy notification requirements.
As for the policy mentioned, employers must provide their employees with written notice of their paid leave policy, including the notification requirements. Any changes made to the policy must be provided to the employee within five calendar days of any change made. Reasonable paid leave policy notification requirements can include seven calendar days' notice before the date the leave will begin and or notice as soon as is practicable if leave is no longer foreseeable. However, while employers can ask for notice, they are not eligible to require their employees to find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee takes paid leave.
Meaning as long as an employee provides notice when applicable, employees are absolutely able to take their paid leave to go and do whatever they need or what to do. Whether staying at home and watching Netflix or going to a scheduled doctor's appointment, your accrued time off is your business.
Along with the reasonable paid leave policy, employers must provide their employees with written notice of their right to paid leave under the law. The written notice is required to include the following information:
- Terms and conditions of the leave
- The leave that the employee is entitled to
- The employee's right to file a complaint if the employer does not comply with the law.
Employers are expected to maintain a record documenting their compliance with the act for at least three years. The records must include the following information:
- Amount of paid leave provided
- Purposes for which leave was taken
- Notices provided to employees
The act prohibits any retaliation an employer may try to take against their employee who uses or even attempts to enforce their rights. If found that an en employee has been retaliated against, the penalties and fines for violations could come in the form of compensatory damages of up to $1,000. Damages can include attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and more. Employers can also find themselves subject to a penalty of $2,500 for each separate offense. In order to stay in compliance with the Paid Leave for Workers Act, employers should take a fresh look at their current policies and make the changes required sooner rather than later. For more information regarding the Paid Leave for Workers Act, you can connect with us today.