New Paid Leave Laws in Illinois: What Practice and Business Owners Should Know

Are you navigating the maze of paid leave laws in Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago? Our guide will help you determine which laws apply to you and what you need to know to comply.

The State of Illinois and local governments have passed new paid leave laws for employees. Both Cook County’s Paid Leave Ordinance and Illinois’s Paid Leave for All Workers Act went into effect this year. The paid leave requirement in the City of Chicago’s Paid Leave and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

With so many laws to navigate, you may wonder what paid leave requirements you should follow. Read along with us to understand the differences between the state, county, and city laws and what they mean for your business!

The State of Illinois – Paid Leave for All Workers Act (PLAWA)

Employees in Illinois are entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period. One hour of paid leave is earned for every 40 hours worked. A covered employee is any employee who performs work in Illinois for an employer who does business in Illinois. If you think you are a covered employee or employee, make note of the following.

  • Post a notice! Illinois employers are required to post a PLAWA notice sign
  • Paid leave must be allowed to be used for any reason.
  • Have a written policy. Employers can require up to seven days’ notice for foreseeable leave, but this requirement must be in a written employee policy. Unforeseeable leave may include sudden family emergencies or last-minute personal appointments. Remember that even for an unforeseen leave, employers cannot require employees to disclose the reason for the absence.  
  • Employers may frontload paid leave by providing employees with a year’s worth of leave that meets the minimum requirements at the start of the year.
  • Employees must be allowed to carry over paid leave hours to the next year. However, an employer does not have to allow an employee to use more than 40 hours of paid leave in a 12-month period. 
  • Look at your local laws. PLAWA does not apply to any local government or county with its own equivalent paid leave laws, so it is also essential to see if your local government has different requirements, like Cook County and Chicago.
  • The State of Illinois has not provided guidance on remote workers. Therefore, we recommend that you consult with an attorney to evaluate your obligations if you have or are hiring Illinois residents as employees. 
  • Employers may face penalties for noncompliance. Employers can be liable to employees for damages for underpayment and be subject to fines. Fines range from $500 to $1000.

Cook County – Paid Leave Ordinance

The hour and notice requirements for Cook County’s ordinance are the same as the state’s. The ordinance covers employees who work in Cook County and/or have an employer whose place of business is in Cook County. Remote workers living in Cook County whose employers reside outside Cook County are likely required to observe the county’s ordinance. 

If you are a covered Cook County business, make sure to post this notice for your employees to see!

Because Chicago has its own ordinance, Chicago employers and employees must abide by the city ordinance, which we discuss below. The Chicago ordinance takes precedence over the Cook County ordinance within city limits. 

City of Chicago – Paid Leave and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Currently, the Paid Leave and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance provides that Chicago employees must accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked. Starting July 1, 2024, employees must also accrue one hour of paid leave for every 35 hours worked. The ordinance applies to employees who work at least 80 hours in a 120-day period within the city limits.

If you are a Chicago business, be aware of the differences between the city ordinance and the county and state-level laws. Where those differences exist, the city ordinance takes precedence.

  • Always post the most updated version of the Chicago Labor Law Public Notices. After the city’s Paid Leave Ordinance goes into effect, the notice will include a new section advising employees of your obligations.
  • Keep good records. Chicago employers must keep information such as hours worked and the dates leave was taken to show compliance. You may use spreadsheets, timesheets, save calendar schedules, whichever method works best for your business. 
  • Depending on the size of your business, you may also have to pay out unused leave after termination or separation. Large businesses with 101 employees or more must pay out up to seven days of paid leave. Employers with 51-100 employees must pay out 16 hours of paid leave. Finally, small businesses with 50 employees or less are not required to pay out unused paid leave. 
  • Employees are permitted to carry over up to 16 hours of paid leave. 
  • The ordinance applies to employees working within Chicago city limits. While the City of Chicago has not given official guidance, remote workers working remotely within city limits are likely covered by the ordinance, even if their employers are based outside the city. 
  • Employers may face penalties for noncompliance. Employers can be liable to employees for damages for underpayment and be subject to fines. The City of Chicago has larger fines than the county or state, ranging from $1,000 to $3000.

(Click table to enlarge)

Comparitive table of the new IL State, Cook County, and City of Chicago paid leave laws.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep track of the accrued hours? 

Under PLAWA and the Cook County Ordinance, employers must make and preserve records showing hours worked, paid leave accrued, paid leave taken, and the remaining paid leave balance for each employee. This information should be documented and kept for at least three years. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection can request access to these records to monitor compliance. The exact method of tracking paid leave hours is up to the employer. 

The City of Chicago similarly requires tracking of hours worked, paid leave accrued, paid leave taken, and the remaining paid leave balance for each employee. However, these records must be kept for at least five years. The exact method of tracking paid leave hours is up to the employer. 

Can I require notice before taking time off? 

Yes, under PLAWA and the Cook County ordinance, you can require up to seven days’ notice. However, this requirement must be provided in a written policy to the employees.  

Can I require paid leave requests to be in writing? 

Yes, under PLAWA, the Cook County Ordinance, and the City of Chicago Ordinance, paid leave requests can be given orally or in writing, depending on the employer’s written policy. Make sure to provide employees with a written policy specifying how paid leave requests must be made. 

Is there a minimum hourly requirement I can impose on the use of paid leave? 

Under PLAWA and the Cook County ordinance, employers may require a reasonable minimum hour requirement of up to two hours. In contrast, the City of Chicago Ordinance will allow employers to require a reasonable minimum hour requirement of up to four hours. 

Can I ask my employees why they are taking paid leave?

PLAWA, the Cook County Ordinance, and the City of Chicago Ordinance prohibit requiring employees to disclose why they are taking their paid leave or requiring documentation of their paid leave. However, if you use a formal request form, you may include optional fields for employees to state the reason for the leave. Nonetheless, you must make it clear that sharing the reason for leave is optional.

If a long-term employee banks their carried-over paid leave, is there a limit to how much paid time can be taken at once? Is there a maximum I can impose?

Yes, under PLAWA and the Cook County ordinance, employers are only required to allow employees to use 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period, even if they carry over hours. Additionally, employers may set parameters and deny paid leave requests for operational reasons if the policy is extended equally to all employees. 

The City of Chicago Ordinance allows 16 hours to be carried over, and these hours must be permitted to be used however the employee chooses. However, an employer may deny paid leave in accordance with a reasonable and equally applied policy. 

Get Legal Help

Remember, when in doubt, seek advice from a legal professional who can help you navigate the complex web of state and local laws. The experienced attorneys at Jackson LLP Healthcare Lawyers know the difficulties you encounter as the owner of a small to medium independent practice. We’re here to help you succeed despite the challenges! If you operate or have employees in Illinois, book a free consultation with us to find out if we’re a good fit for your needs.

This blog is made for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and the reader. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

Free Attorney Consultation

Book Now
Skip to content