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Sunday, June 9, 2024 | Back issues
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Illinois governor signs law mandating paid time off

The new law guarantees most employees in Illinois will receive up to 40 hours of paid leave every year.

CHICAGO (CN) — Illinois on Monday became the third state in the union to guarantee paid time off for workers, following Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker's signing of the Paid Leave for All Workers Act.

"Today, we will become the third state in the nation to require paid time off, and the first among the largest states. Employers benefit from allowing employees to tend to the urgent personal matters of their lives," Pritzker said at a press conference that accompanied the signing. "Workers' productivity increases, and they often gain greater passion for their job when they can manage the stresses they face outside work."

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, guarantees that most workers in the state will receive up to 40 hours of paid leave every 12-month period. The leave will accrue at a rate of one hour per every 40 hours worked, and workers can begin using their accrued time starting March 31, 2024, or 90 days following the commencement of employment.

The bill extends to domestic and tipped workers, and ensures they receive their full wage while on leave for any reason. Workers will not have to provide their employers with any form of documentation before taking leave, and employers will be forbidden from replacing employees while they take their accrued time off.

"It's not uncommon for life to get in the way of work - be it your child unexpectedly gets sick or your car breaks down. You shouldn't be punished for these everyday obstacles," said Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, the bill's primary sponsor, in prepared remarks.

Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton echoed Lightford's statement, saying at the press conference that she hoped the law would take the pressure off hourly workers who are caught between work and caring for themselves or loved ones.

"There are far too many Illinoisans who are put between a rock and a hard place when life happens, and life does happen to all of us," Stratton said, citing her own experience balancing work and caring for her dementia-stricken mother. "Too many who feel they have to choose between their job and their loved ones, and honestly that is a false choice."

Maine and Nevada have similar laws in place, though they are not as far-reaching as the Illinois legislation. Maine's paid leave law only applies to businesses employing more than 10 people, while Nevada's only extends to those with at least 50 employees.

The Paid Leave for All Workers Act has no limit based on business size, and the governor's office said it expects the bill to extend paid leave to over 1.5 million Illinoisans who previously went without it.

But there are exemptions. The bill does not cover so-called independent contractors, which is how many gig companies such as Uber and GrubHub classify their workers. Employees in Cook County, including Chicago, are also exempt, given that both the county and Chicago have preexisting paid sick leave ordinances that are effectively identical to the new law. The bill also exempts union members in the construction and package delivery industries whose paid leave hours are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

A representative from the Service Employees International Union, one of the largest unions in Illinois which represents over 150,000 workers in multiple industries across the state, did not respond to a request for comment on how the law may affect union members in other industries.

The bill, known officially as SB 208, passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in January. Earlier in February, the governor's office declined to comment on why Pritzker did not immediately sign the bill after the Legislature approved it.

While the bill enjoyed some bipartisan support in both the state Senate and House, the majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it. The bill was also opposed by the Illinois office of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business advocacy organization. The NFIB's Illinois director, Chris Davis, said in a prepared statement that the bill was an "employment tax" which many small businesses would not be able to afford.

"The message from Illinois lawmakers is loud and clear: 'Your small business isn’t essential,'" Davis said. "There is little doubt that this one additional burden will be a reason why small businesses across the state close their doors and more Main Street jobs are lost."

Despite the NFIB's concerns, Illinois and the United States as a whole lag far behind the rest of the world in providing paid time off for workers. The U.S. is the only industrialized country on Earth that at the national level does not guarantee a minimum amount of paid family medical leave, while paid time off for other reasons is left almost entirely to private employers' discretion or agreed on via collective bargaining agreements with unions.

By contrast, workers in the United Kingdom are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid leave per year as a right of employment. Workers in France are entitled to a minimum of five weeks, while Japanese employees are guaranteed between 10 and 20 days off, depending on seniority.

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Categories / Employment, Government, Politics, Regional

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