New Legislation in Illinois: Guaranteed Paid Time-Off?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2023 | Employment Law |

Senate Bill 208, also known as the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, will affect both employees and employers throughout Illinois. On its face, the idea of the Act appears simple: for every forty hours that an employee works, employers are required to approve one hour of paid time off to be used for any reason.  In order to begin using the paid time, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least ninety days. The cap for the paid time off is forty total hours over the course of a 12-month period, the equivalent of one 5-day work week each year. This 40-hour-per-year limit under the Act, however, is not meant to become the maximum paid time off that any employer offers. Employers are still encouraged by the legislation to expand upon this new law and are allowed to offer more than what the Act requires.

The Paid Leave for All Workers Act is not the first of its kind. Pilot programs in Cook County and Chicago ran initially to test the proposition of mandatory paid. Critics warned of the harm it posed to small businesses. In other states, legislators have passed similar laws but have abated these concerns by requiring a minimum number of total employees an employer must have in order for the law to apply (anywhere between 10 minimum employees and 100 minimum employees). The Illinois bill has no such minimum. It will apply to businesses of all sizes.

The Act contains a slight misnomer; it does not apply to all workers. Seasonal workers, Federal employees, and college students working temporarily part-time at their universities are all exempt from the Act. The Act also specifically excludes from “Employers” any school districts and park districts. Workers that qualify for the mandatory paid time off under the Act, however, can use that time off for any reason; vacation time, sick days, family emergencies, mental health purposes, the new video game release, et cetera.

What does this mean for Employees? Those that already have a contract for paid time off in place will continue to work under that contract, provided that the contract allows for more paid leave than the new law. For those without existing paid leave, starting in January of 2024, Employees should track their hours should they need to use the time allotted by the Act. Employees should also review their Employer’s policies on requesting paid time off and ensure that their requests for time off meet those policies.  For those reasons that are foreseeable, employees must adhere to notice policies given to their employer.

What does this mean for Employers? Employers, if they do not have one already, should create a written policy regarding reasonable procedure for an employee to notify in the event that this employee is going to utilize their paid time off hours. The new legislation specifies that these policies have to be reasonable—for foreseeable time off requests an employer can only require notice 7 calendar days before the date the leave is to begin; otherwise, employees need only give employers notice “as soon as practicable.” The written paid leave policy must be available to employees to give them adequate notice, and any changes to the policy should be posted within 5 calendar days.

As with any new legislation, more questions will rise as disputes over the language do—what does it mean for the request to have been foreseeable? Should the hours within the first 90 days of employment count towards building the paid time off, though employees cannot take the time during those days? Could these 40 hours of time be in addition to paid time off allowed by an employment contract only for limited reasons? The General Assembly states explicitly that the intent is for the Act to be “liberally construed in favor of providing workers with the greatest amount of paid time off from work and employment security.” Disputes over this time off are likely to lean in the employee’s favor, save for reasonable precautions against abuse of this new law as set into place by employers.