Each year, more states and communities are requiring employers to provide their workers with sick leave benefits to care for themselves or family members who are ill or injured. This year, Illinois follows the trend with its own Employee Sick Leave Act. The Act doesn’t give workers any additional time off, but it does require employers who already have sick leave or paid time off policies to allow their employees to use up to one-half of their time off to care for family members.
The list of relatives for whom employees can use their sick time includes the employee’s child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchildren, or grandparents, stepparents, stepchildren and a domestic partner. The leave can be used for routine illnesses or injuries and medical appointments as well as more serious conditions.
A recent amendment to the Act clarifies that family leave benefits apply to paid or unpaid leave policies. The amendment also added stepchildren and domestic partners to the list of covered relatives. The amendment allows an employer to require a doctor’s note for a family care absence if one is required for the employee’s own health condition.
There are a few things the Act does not do:
- The Act does not require an employer to modify a sick leave policy that provides these benefits.
- The Act does not prohibit an employer from applying terms and conditions to their sick leave policies.
- The Act does not cover insured long-term or short-term disabilities.
- The Act does not affect collective bargaining agreements.
- The Act does not apply to employees covered by the federal Railway Labor Act, the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, or the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.
The Act prohibits an employer from retaliating against any employee who exerts or attempts to exert their rights under the Act. The Act authorizes the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) to handle complaints for violations of the Act and gives the agency the authority to adopt additional regulations to implement the Act.
Illinois employers should stay alert to IDOL implementing regulations. In reviewing existing leave policies to ensure compliance with the Act, Illinois employers with employees who work in Chicago and Cook County should also be aware of local sick leave ordinances going into effect on July 1, 2017. These local laws permit employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually which can be used for the employee’s own health or a family member’s health even if the employer has no personal time off policy.