In March 2023, Governor Pritzker signed the Paid Leave for All Workers Act into law, making Illinois the third state in the nation, and the first in the Midwest, to mandate paid time off to be used for any reason.
We wanted to update you on what we currently know regarding the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, effective Jan. 1, 2024. We have contacted our legal counsel for a list of frequently asked questions and their answers to provide some clarity.
Additionally, we've asked our attorney to provide a webinar in August to review and communicate changes as well as answer your questions on how the law applies to your library. As soon as we have a date for this webinar, it will be placed in L2 for you to register to attend this event.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the PLAW Act?
It is a “paid leave for all workers” law and, with few exceptions, it requires that an employee who works in Illinois must be eligible to earn up to forty (40) hours of paid leave in a rolling 12-month period. Leave may be taken for “any reason.”
- Which employers are covered by the law?
All individuals and public and private entities that employ at least one employee in the State of Illinois except federal government employers, school districts organized under the Illinois School Code, and park districts organized under the Illinois Park District Code. PLAW also exempts from its requirements employers covered by a municipal or county ordinance that is in effect as of Jan. 1, 2024, that requires the employer to provide any form of paid leave; for example, Chicago and Cook County have a paid sick leave requirement for employers and if the employer is complying with one of these, then the PLAW requirements will not apply. Bear in mind, however, that most municipalities in Cook County “opted out” of compliance with this ordinance and, in those municipalities, because the employer is not “covered” by the Cook County ordinance, an employer would need to comply with the PLAW Act.
- Are union employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement covered by the law?
It depends; the PLAW Act states that its requirements can be waived in a bona fide collective bargaining agreement if the waiver is set forth explicitly in such agreement in clear and unambiguous terms, meaning the parties should refer specifically to the statute. For collective bargaining agreements that are still in effect as of Jan. 1, 2024, the law states that nothing in the PLAW Act shall affect the validity or change the terms of a bona fide collective bargaining agreement in effect as of Jan. 1. However, the PLAW Act does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement with a state agency, employers in the construction industry, or employers who provide services nationally and internationally of delivery, pickup, and transportation of documents, parcels, and freight
- How much paid time off do covered employees get?
Covered employees are entitled to earn and use up to forty (40) hours of paid time during a 12-month period. Paid leave under the PLAW Act accrues at the rate of 1 hour for every forty (40) hours worked up to a maximum of forty (40) hours (though employers are certainly able to provide more than 40).
- Can an employer front-load 40 hours of PLAW Act leave?
Yes, an employer may choose to provide the full forty (40) hours of leave at the beginning of the applicable 12-month period as a block grant.
- When must a new employee be permitted to take PLAW Act leave?
Regardless of whether the employer grants a full forty (40) hours at the beginning of the 12-month period or the employer accrues PLAW Act leave as they work, a new employee must be permitted to begin to take PLAW Act leave after ninety (90) days after the law is effective or ninety (90) days after employment starts, whichever is later.
- Must the 12-month period be a calendar year?
No, the employer may designate the consecutive 12-month period, which must be communicated to employees in writing at the time of hire. The employer can designate the calendar year, fiscal year, or a 12-month period based on the anniversary of employment. If the employer changes the 12-month period, the employer must provide documentation to the employee that includes the balance of paid leave accrued and taken, and the remaining leave balance.
- How can paid time off under the law be used?
Time off can be taken for any reason of the employee’s choosing. Employees can request to take paid leave orally, or in writing, or in accordance with an employer’s reasonable paid leave policy.
- Can the employer require the employee to provide advance notice of the need for leave or documentation as to what the time off was used for?
The law says that an employer can require an employee to give seven (7) calendar days’ notice if the need for leave is foreseeable; however, if the need for leave is not foreseeable, the employee need only provide as much notice as is practicable. Employers cannot require documentation or certification to prove the employee’s need/reason for the leave.
- What happens when an employer provides two or more “banks” of paid time off?
If an employer provides two (2) or more “banks” of time off for an employee, the employee may choose the “bank” of leave which they want “charged” for the time off (of course if the employee selects another bank of time off, the employee would need to comply with the employer’s requirements for use of that banked time – if the employee elects to use time from his “sick bank” and under the applicable policy, the employee must present a doctor’s note, this can be required if the employee chooses to use his sick bank).
- Does unused PLAW act leave have to carry over to the next 12-month period?
If an employer chooses to “front load” PLAW Act leave by providing the forty (40) hours at the beginning of the 12-month period, then the employer does NOT need to allow employees to carry over unused PLAW Act leave to the next 12-month period. However, if the employer accrues paid time off as the employee works, the employee must be permitted to carry over any unused time to the next 12-month period. Regardless of the amount carried over to the next 12 month period, however the law only requires an employer to allow an employee to use up to forty (40) hours of PLAW time each 12-month period. (The point of the carryover when the employee accrues the time is for there to not be another waiting period until the employee has earned enough time to take off.)
- Do employers have to pay an employee for unused PLAW act time when the employee’s employment ends?
It depends. If the employer separates PLAW Act leave from other paid time off (such as PTO or vacation) then the employer will not need to pay out for unused PLAW Act leave at the time of separation. However, if the employer places all paid time in a single “bucket” then all of that time must be paid out upon separation from employment. Note that if an employee’s employment ends and he is not paid out for unused PLAW leave but is reinstated within twelve (12) months, the unused PLAW leave must also be reinstated to the employee’s available PLAW leave bank.
- Does the PLAW act have record-keeping requirement?
Yes. Employers are required to preserve records documenting hours worked, leave accrued and taken, and the remaining balance for three (3) years and must allow the IDOL access to the records. Employers must also post a summary of the PLAW Act requirements in a conspicuous place where notices are customarily kept. Employers will also be required to provide a written notice summarizing the requirements of the PLAW Act and information about how to file a charge with the IDOL. The notice will be provided by the IDOL and has not yet been published. It will require that the notice be given to employees who commence employment after January 1, 2024. Then notice can be a standalone document or can be included in the Employee Handbook distributed to all employees.
- Is there a penalty for non-compliance?
Yes. First, if an employee believes he is covered under the PLAW Act, and the employee believes his employer has not complied with the PLAW Act, the employee can file a complaint with the IDOL; the applicable statute of limitations will be three (3) years from the date of the alleged violation. If, after investigation, the IDOL finds cause to believe the law has been violated, the matter will be referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a formal hearing. Second, employers who fail to abide by the law, including recordkeeping requirements, can be liable to each affected employee for up to $1,000.00 in civil penalties as well as damages in the form of an underpayment, compensatory damages, equitable relief, reasonable attorney’s fees, witness fees, and other costs of maintaining an action against the employer. Third, violations will subject an employer to a penalty of up to $2,500 for each separate violation of the Act to be placed into a “Paid Leave for All Workers Fund” that will be used to enforce the PLAW Act.