Paid leave for employees is still not common throughout the U.S. Illinois, however, is taking a significant step forward – at least it will in about a year.
A bill that has passed both houses of the state legislature and that Gov. J.D. Pritzker has committed to signing guarantees all employees at least 40 hours of paid leave each year. Gov. Pritzker has said, “Working families face enough challenges without the concern of losing a day’s pay when life gets in the way.” The new law will not take effect, however, until the beginning of 2024.
How will the new law work?
Employees begin accruing paid leave on their first day with a company. They accrue one hour of leave for every 40 hours they work. That maxes out at 40 hours every 12 months. However, unused leave does carry over to the next year.
The law allows employees to begin using the leave they’ve accrued after they’ve been with an employer for at least 90 days. However, employers have the option to “frontload” 40 hours of leave to an employee if they choose.
Lawmakers debated employee needs and small businesses’ budgets
The legislation did not proceed through the Illinois General Assembly without debate. As with most things, these days, that debate was largely along partisan lines.
Those who opposed the legislation said that it would be a strain on small businesses. One representative from Jacksonville acknowledged that the law will apply to businesses of all sizes. However, he said that “my major concern are the little guys. It’s the mom and pops that have 5, 10, maybe 13 employees, that this has a significant impact on their budgets.”
The lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth from Peoria, described paid leave as being “about the dignity of work. It’s about humanizing and honoring the realities that we know that adult workers have in our daily lives….”
Of course, in the meantime, employees still have a right to unpaid leave under laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It’s important to know what your legal rights are whenever you need to have a leave of absence of any length to care for a family member or yourself. If you have questions or concerns about your employer violating those rights, it can help to seek legal guidance.