Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a new law that will require employers to offer paid time off for any reason starting January 1, 2024. Illinois will join Maine and Nevada as the only states that mandate earned paid time off, giving employees the freedom to use it however they see fit, with no need to explain the reason for their absence as long as they provide notice in accordance with reasonable employer standards. This is a welcome relief for overburdened workers, especially low-income earners who are more vulnerable.
Illinois employees will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours total, although the employer may offer more. Employees can start using the time once they have worked for 90 days. Seasonal workers will be exempt, as will federal employees or college students who work non-full-time, temporary jobs for their university.
The law aims to provide relief to workers who cannot afford to take a day off without pay. Proponents say paid leave is key to making sure workers have the ability to take time off when needed without fear of reprisal from an employer. The Center for American Progress also notes that the new law creates a strong foundation for employers to build from, while generating a healthier, more productive workforce.
Critics, however, argue that the law will overburden small businesses already struggling to survive the post-pandemic era amid the high inflation that has gripped the nation for nearly two years. They say business owners are best positioned to work with their employees one-on-one to meet their needs. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat, said that the bill is the product of years of negotiations with businesses and labor groups, and is a step forward for the state in bringing dignity to all workers.
Workers in Cook County and Chicago have been covered by existing paid sick leave laws since July 2017, and will continue to be covered by these laws rather than the new state law. However, any new local laws enacted after the state law takes effect must provide benefits that are greater or equal to the state law.
While the U.S. still lags behind its economic peers internationally in terms of paid leave laws, Illinois’ new law is a step in the right direction, offering relief to overburdened workers who have been struggling to make ends meet.