Paid Leave in Illinois



Earlier this month, Illinois became only the third state to pass a mandatory Paid Time off law.  Our state’s “Paid Leave for All Workers Act” is such a significant win for Illinoisans, particularly the 1.5 million workers who have no access to any paid sick time and have had to choose between taking time off without pay to care for themselves or family members during the pandemic or getting paid.

Illinois Unidos interviewed Jorge Mujica, its Workplace Committee co-chair and Strategic Campaign Organizer with Arise Chicago to understand the significance of this new legislation, particularly as we work to respond and recover from Covid-19 in our community.

Alejandra L. Ibanez, Executive Director of Illinois Unidos

Jorge Mujica, Illinois Unidos Workplace Committee Co-Chair, and Steering Committee member

AI: What does this new legislation provide for Illinois workers?

JM:  The Paid Leave Act provides up to 5 days/40 hours of Paid Time Off for most workers in the state of Illinois.  This is significant because federal Labor laws don’t provide paid time off. There are no mandates for Paid time off, Sick Pay, or vacation pay in US labor laws. 

There is a certain category of workers this does not include, such as students, railroad workers, and individuals who already work under collective bargaining agreements, like folks in a union.  

Illinois’ Paid Time off is earned; you accumulate one hour for every 40 hours worked, whether you are a full-time or part-time employee. Up to 40 hours, but not more.  Unlike Chicago’s current Paid Time off law, workers won’t need to give their employers reason for taking time off, but will be required to provide 7 days’ notice if the requested leave is foreseeable, or as soon as practical if it is not.  This new legislation will go into effect next January 2024.

AI: How about immigrant workers, will they receive this benefit?

JM: This is for ALL workers. The law is precise on this. A worker is a worker! 

What’s important is the law includes domestic workers, such as childcare and elder care providers, dog walkers, and house cleaners, which have been historically left out of worker rights and protections. But Illinois considers them eligible!

AI: Why is this benefit important?

JM: In November and December there was a big railroad worker call for a strike and Congress intervened to settle the contract. A major issue was Paid Time off for railroad workers. Time off should be time to rest, and recover from work. For employers paid time off is just time not worked, like a vacation or personal time, but sick time off is not resting, it is not a vacation. You should have the time off if you are sick, but also time off to recover and rest. In 1886 workers fought for the 8-hour workday because anything more than eight hours is excessive. If you don’t rest, your body can’t recover.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, most low-wage essential workers didn’t have access to paid leave to recover or even care for their loved ones. 

While the pandemic continues, we are also dealing with long-Covid symptoms that impact people’s capacity to work at the same level or at all with devastating symptoms that are leaving millions of people unable to work.  

Follow Illinois Unidos as we continue to advocate for our community’s full recovery from Covid-19!

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