Illinois DOL Publishes Answers to FAQs on Paid Leave for All Workers Act

Jai HookerPaid Sick Leave Updates

Illinois DOL Publishes Answers to FAQs on Paid Leave for All Workers Act

Christina Jaremus, Sara Eber Fowler, and Joshua D. Seidman

Seyfarth Shaw

What You Need To Know:

  • Effective Jan. 1, 2024, Illinois’ Paid Leave for All Workers Act requires most employers in Illinois to offer 40 hours of paid leave for any reason to employees. Seyfarth’s prior update detailed the relevant provisions of the Act.
  • The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) recently published FAQs, intended to enhance public access and understanding of the law. Employers should ensure their systems are set-up to ensure compliance.
  • As explained below, while the FAQs provide some helpful guidance, they still leave a number of substantive topics unaddressed, so we are hopeful that further updates and guidance will be forthcoming.

On May 23, 2023, IDOL published “Paid Leave for All Workers Act Frequently Asked Questions,” providing the first guidance on the state’s impending Paid Leave for All Workers Act (the Act). In large part, the FAQs generally set forth specific provisions of the Act in “bite-sized” form, with some larger interpretive questions still unanswered. For example, the FAQs highlight that the Act applies to part- and full-time employees, and that employers can frontload paid leave time (by providing a full year’s worth of leave that meets the minimum requirements of the Act at the beginning of the year).

As to one of employers’ biggest questions – how do existing paid time off policies intersect with the Act – the FAQs state that employers that already provide paid time off policies that “meet the minimum requirements of the Act” do not have to “add additional time.” This differs from the language of the Act, which states that employers that already provide paid leave “that satisfies the minimum amount of leave” need not modify their policies, so long as they allow employees to take that leave at their discretion for any reason.

Additional FAQs share the following insights and/or reminders:

  • Interplay with paid sick leave ordinances: The FAQs highlight that employers in municipalities that have opted out of another paid leave ordinance (i.e., Cook County paid leave ordinance) are still required to comply with the Act.
  • Accrual for part-time and exempt/salaried employees: For employers that do not want to frontload paid leave, the FAQs highlight that an employer can lawfully require their employees to accrue paid leave time based on number of hours worked, at a rate of one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked. This means that a part-time employee might not accrue the full 40 hours of leave provided for in the Act by the end of the year based on the number of hours they worked. The FAQ gives the following example: Employee A works 15 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. The employee will accrue 19.5 hours of paid leave annually. The calculation: 15 times 52 = 780 hours worked per year. 780 divided by 40 = 19.5 hours of paid leave.

The FAQ does not go so far to say, however, that an employer can limit frontloading to 19.5 hours of paid leave.

Separately, the FAQs reiterate how accrual applies to exempt employees. Exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a week do not accrue leave more rapidly for working more than 40 hours per week; they will be deemed to work 40 hours in each workweek. However, if an exempt employee’s regular workweek is less than 40 hours, their paid leave time accrues based on the number of hours in their regular workweek.

PTO effective March 31, 2024: Although accrual of paid leave is required to begin Jan. 1, 2024, employees are not entitled to begin using the accrued paid leave until after 90 days after the Act’s effective date or the start of employment. Therefore, the earliest day any employee must be allowed to take time off time is March 31, 2024.

Public schools have a “hall pass:” The FAQs make clear that public school districts organized under the school code are exempt from the Act, but that private schools – not organized under the school code – are not exempt from the Act.

***This article originally appeared on the Seyfarth Shaw “If Pain, Yes Gain” legal update series and was reposted on the DMEC website with their permission.***