Illinois is about to require nearly all workers to take paid leave—unlimited based on business size

When Joan Van got sick, she didn’t get paid.

Restaurant waiters in the East St. Louis and a single mother of three says she works twice as hard to make ends meet when she or one of her children gets sick.

“You can’t let the kids see you break down from fatigue and exhaustion, because you have to keep trying. You have to. And if you don’t, who will?” she speaks.

She may not have to work much longer. The expanded paid leave law requiring employers in Illinois to give workers time off based on hours worked, used for any reason, is ready for action by Democratic Governor JB. Pritzker, who said he would sign it.

Rare in America

Requesting paid leave is rare in the United States — only Maine and Nevada have similar laws — although common in other industrialized nations.

Fourteen states and Washington, DC, require employers to provide paid sick leave passed similar laws, though employees can only use it for health-related matters. What sets Illinois’ new law apart is that workers will not have to explain their absence as long as they provide notice according to reasonable employer standards.

Maine and Nevada also allow workers to decide how their time is spent, but significant exemptions apply. Maine’s Paid Leave Act only applies to employers with more than 10 employees, and Nevada waives exemptions for businesses with fewer than 50. Illinois’ will reach nearly all employees and have no limits. term based on business size.

Seasonal workers like lifeguards will be exempt, as will federal employees or college students doing temporary, non-full-time work for their college.

‘Life happens’

The law will go into effect on January 1, 2024. Workers will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked for a total of 40 hours, although employers can offer more than. Employees can start using the time after working full 90 days.

“Working families face enough challenges without worrying about losing a day’s pay when life gets in the way,” Pritzker said on Jan. 11, when the bill passed both houses.

ordinance in District cooking And Chicago asked employers to allow paid sick leave, and workers in those locations will continue to be governed by existing laws rather than the new bill.

Johnae Strong, an administrative officer at a small media company in Chicago, says paid sick leave helps her take care of her two children, a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old. But time extension is used for whatever reason would be helpful.

“Life happens,” she said, adding that she hopes Chicago will update its laws to be more flexible, such as the state bill.

Sarah Labadie, advocacy and policy director for Women Employed, a nonprofit that has fought for paid leave since 2008 and helped push for legislation.

“Obviously we had some strange things happen during the pandemic, but before the pandemic that was not the case. Chicago is a thriving economic engine,” she said.

Democratic Representative Peoria Jehan Gordon-Booth sponsored the bill, which she said would “help lift working families” and “immediately help people.”

Newly elected House Republican Leader Tony McCombie said the mandated benefits could have an “adverse effect” on small businesses and nonprofits “in an already established business environment.” not friendly.”

“We all want a great work environment with work-life balance,” she said in an emailed statement. “However, Senate Bill 208 has failed to address the concerns of those providing that workplace.”

‘Slightly scared’ for small businesses

For Leslie Allison-Seei, who runs a sweepstakes and promotions management company with her husband in DuPage County, taking care of their three full-time employees is a priority, but “very difficult” to compete with the company’s paid leave policies.

“We are delighted that this has been passed and it will be signed. But it’s also a little scary because, you know, a week’s worth of time — I don’t know what that’s going to do to our business,” Allison-Seei said. “I think a lot of businesses are just doing the best they can to stay afloat.”

Small business advocacy group the National Federation of Independent Businesses opposes the bill, saying it “imposes a one-size-fits-all rule on all employers.”

NFIB State Director Chris Davis said in a statement after the bill’s passage, small business owners face high inflation, rising fuel and energy costs, and a shortage of qualified workers. , and this requirement would be an “additional burden”. “The message from Illinois legislators was loud and clear, ‘Your small business is not needed.’”

However, the potential burden on small businesses conflicts with the needs of workers, especially those with young children.

Van, parent group leader for Community and Family Affairs, says she doesn’t get paid leave until she’s worked for a year. Knowing she’ll lose a day’s pay when she or one of her children gets sick is a constant stress for the Belleville mom, but the PTO is guaranteed “it’s going to be great,” giving her peace of mind and ease some financial worries.

Molly Weston Williamson, paid leave policy expert and senior fellow at the think tank Center for American Progress, called the Illinois legislation “a big step in the right direction.”

In addition to establishing workers’ right to paid leave, the bill prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for using it. This is key to making sure “low-income workers or others who are more vulnerable can actually take the time,” Williamson said.

Paid leave is both a labor rights issue and a public health issue, Williamson said. Waiters like Van who handle food and drinks without leave are more likely to get sick and have to go to work. sending their child to day care is sick“At that point, they make other people sick,” she said.

“Especially now that we’ve been through more than three years in the face of a global pandemic, I think we all have a much deeper understanding of how all of our health,” Williamson said. we are tied together.

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