Illinois’ mandatory 40-hour paid leave is too much for some local businesses

Doug Knight’s family has owned Springfield Knight’s Action Park theme park since 1930, having owned 43 years of them himself.

The pandemic is a bear – Knight fought to keep his doors open, and when they were closed because of COVID-19, he tried to reopen as soon as possible. Inflation is also an obstacle. From inflatable tubes to swimming pool chlorine, he said, the price of “everything we buy” has gone up, and now a new Illinois law represents “another bump in the road” for businesses. business owners.

On Monday, Illinois became one of three US states provides for “any reason” paid leave, up to 40 hours per year for full-time employees. Small business owners in Illinois say they know how important it is to take care of their workers, but some see the requirement for paid leave as a burden imposed by the government.

“When you hit a big bump and jump off a cliff, how does that help you?” Knight said.

This law goes into effect on January 1, 2024. Employees will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked for a total of 40 hours and can start using this time after they have worked. work for 90 days.

Knight and his brother, co-owners, mainly hire seasonal workers not within the scope of the measure, but they will have to provide paid leave to 10 year-round workers. The veteran business owner said he’s not worried and will juggle whatever happens next, although consumers will eventually pay the difference.

But advocates argue that the policy supports both employers and workers, and that ensuring paid leave promotes a healthier, more productive workforce.

“When people have the kind of paid time off they need, they can take it,” said Molly Weston Williamson, who tracks paid leave policy at the research and advocacy group Center for American Progress. stay home when sick.

For business owners concerned that the law will add stress during tough economic conditions, Williamson points out that Chicago And District cooking There have been similar ordinances in place since 2017 and fears of dire economic consequences have never occurred.

In fact, “our economy can’t help but provide these benefits,” Williamson said. “We cannot afford to pay people who are losing their jobs. We can’t afford people who are getting sicker because they don’t get the care they need. We can’t stand the impact on our healthcare system.”

Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said at the bill’s signing Monday that the legislation would specifically help low-wage workers , who are less likely to get paid leave and are blacks, Latinos, and women.

“Thanks to this measure, workers are assured that they can take care of themselves today without worrying about the consequences tomorrow,” said Gordon-Booth.

Christell Frausto, co-owner of TequilaRia Wine and Spirits in Peoria, said she sees paid leave as “an investment” and hopes other business owners will too.

Frausto, 38, said she is ready to assist employees who need flexibility during emergencies, illnesses or personal events. She opened a boutique-style store focusing on specialty products including women-owned brands and organic, gluten-free or low-calorie options two years ago.

Frausto said the pandemic is a clear sign that prioritizing workers is a necessary strategy for business owners, who hope before the law goes into effect will give them time to budget and prepare.

“They are part of my team,” she says of her staff. “My concern is to take care of them as much as my customers. I have to make sure they have a work-life balance.”

For Sandy and Dave Schoenborn, a couple who own the Lincoln Theater in Belleville, Illinois, the state mandate is of great concern. “I’m pretty nervous,” said Sandy Schoeborn. “Unless business gets better, it’s going to be very stressful.”

She says that paid leave is something employees should earn, not enjoy. “I can’t say no. If I have a big event coming up and people decide to take off, I get hurt.”

Knight, the owner of the Springfield amusement park, said he does his best to take care of his employees. “If they have a reason, they can take a day off” without pay, he said.

“Broken car, sick mom, having to take the dog to the vet… they’re all important to the staff. But you can’t close your business because everyone wants to take off because there’s a concert,” he said.

The pandemic, inflation, utility prices – “it all seems to be piling up” and mandatory paid leave is now another hurdle for business owners.

“It just drives up costs, pushing up prices and consumers paying the bill,” says Knight.


Savage is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report to the US is a nonprofit national service program that sends journalists into local newsrooms to cover confidential issues.

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