Although the Illinois state legislature is presently considering a statewide sick leave bill, currently there is no Illinois state law requiring private employers to provide employees sick leave, paid or unpaid. Today, more than 40% of private sector workers in Illinois cannot earn paid sick time. Of those workers who receive paid health care time, few policies, in both the private and public sectors, allow the worker to use it to care for a family member who is ill. Soon, however, some Illinois workers will be able to use up to half of their employer-provided personal sick leave benefits to care for their family members.
Beginning January 1, 2017, the Illinois “Employee Sick Leave Act” (Public Act No. 841) will require employers to allow employees to use their personal sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness, injury or medical appointment of a family member. “Family members” for whom leave may be taken include the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parents, parents-in-law, grandchildren and grandparents.
While the new leave benefit is good news for employees and their family members, some limits apply to the law. Specifically:
- an employer can limit the amount of personal sick leave time that can be used for family care to the amount of sick leave that would be accrued by the employee during six months at the employee’s current accrual rate;
- an employer that already has a sick leave policy that permits using such leave for family care is not obligated to modify its policy;
- an employer is not required to adopt a sick leave policy if they do not already have one in place; and
- the law does not extend the period of leave available to an employee under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Under the Act, employers are prohibited from denying employees the right to use personal sick time for the care of family members. Additionally, an employer may not retaliate or discriminate against an employee for using personal sick leave for family care or attempting to exercise their rights under the law.
Illinois employers should review sick leave policies to ensure they are consistent with the new law.