What Paid Time Off Laws Exist for Illinois Employers?

What Paid Time Off Laws Exist for Illinois Employers
By Joe Sharpe | 09/29/2022 | 14 min read

As in many other states, businesses in Illinois must abide by a frequently shifting combination of federal and state labor laws. Paid time off (PTO) is one significant legal compliance concern that businesses must consider as they formulate their own company policies. In Illinois, there are some unique county and municipal laws regarding PTO, as well as a range of unique state laws that impact the circumstances under which an employee can acceptably take short or prolonged leave (paid and unpaid).

In this article, we’ll guide you through the federal and state laws that impact PTO requirements in the state of Illinois, and provide guidance on how to ensure legal compliance for your business now and in the future.

The Impact of Federal Policy 

Before we explore the nuances of state policy, it’s important for Illinois businesses to recognize that all of their employees are eligible for family or medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which permits up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. In terms of general guidelines, this unpaid leave may be taken for maternity or paternity purposes (to care for a new child); to recover from a serious health condition; to care for a family member with a serious health condition; and other qualifying causes. Later, we’ll discuss the impact of FMLA policy regarding leave granted for a family member’s military service or for injury incurred during military service.

All Illinois employees are eligible for FMLA-approved unpaid leave as long as they have worked for their employer for a year or more (at least 1,250 hours) and the company employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile area. Of course, if an Illinois business opts to extend leave benefits beyond FMLA guidelines for their employees (offering paid maternity leave, for instance), this must be articulated in company policy and the company must honor the terms expressed in their employment contracts.

Vacation Leave Policy in Illinois

Employers are not required to provide employees with any paid or unpaid vacation benefits in the state of Illinois. Only if an employer establishes an independent company policy that permits paid vacation leave is an employer required to pay benefits; this includes payment for earned or accrued vacation time at the time of job termination or separation. Illinois state law explicitly forbids contracts that demand relinquishment of earned vacation upon separation from employment, unless this is separately articulated in a collective bargaining agreement with the employee’s union. Employers are, however, permitted to adopt a “use it or lose it” policy that requires employees to use vacation time by a specific date, as long as the employee has been granted a reasonable period of time to use their accrued leave.

Fundamentally, if an Illinois employer willingly creates a paid vacation leave allowance, they must pay employees for any unused vacation upon job separation (on an employee’s final day of work or by the next scheduled payday). These rules, mandated by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, only apply if employers elect to offer paid vacation time as part of their company policy.

Holiday Leave Policy in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid holiday leave to their employees. Additionally, private employers are eligible to require an employee to work on holidays without paying premium pay; this, of course, excludes standard overtime, which would still apply. As with several other categories of leave we’ll explore, an employer must comply with the terms of their own company policy if they elect to offer paid or unpaid holiday leave as part of their employee benefits package.

Click here for more information on Illinois state laws regarding holiday leave for public employers.

Sick Leave Policy in Illinois

As with holiday and vacation leave, employers are not required to provide employees with unpaid or paid sick leave benefits in the state of Illinois. When employers elect to provide employee sick leave, it must be due to injury, illness, or the medical appointment of a family member. Of course, employers in Illinois are, under the circumstances outlined in the section on federal policy, required to provide unpaid sick leave to employees when they qualify for it under FMLA regulations.

Other Illinois State PTO Laws and Exceptions

Illinois state law also impacts qualifications and conditions for jury duty leave, voting leave, bereavement leavemilitary family leave, and domestic violence leave. Businesses must familiarize themselves with the laws related to each category, most of which mandate periods of unpaid leave. However, there are exceptions to this, including voting leave, which permits employees up to two hours of PTO to vote in general or special elections and primaries, assuming the employee has provided at least one day’s notice prior to the PTO period.

County and Municipal PTO Laws in Illinois

Although Illinois has its own state laws regarding sick leave, employers in Cook County and the city of Chicago must provide PTO to employees who qualify for medical reasons (using qualifications that closely resemble FMLA requirements). Additionally, for employees to qualify, they must work at least 80 hours within any 120-day period; work 2 or more hours in the city/county during any two-week period; they must have worked for their employer for at least six months. More details regarding the terms of paid sick leave accrual are available here.

For further guidance on Illinois Payroll Laws, Taxes, and Policies, please explore our related guide.

Ensure Illinois State Legal Compliance

Working to guarantee compliance with state and federal PTO requirements is one of multiple challenges Illinois businesses face while navigating labor laws and implementing company policy. We are led by experts on state and federal labor law, who can help your business implement a lasting payroll solution that streamlines time and attendance, yearly filings, tax credits, and everything else your company needs to remain legally compliant. Contact us today to start our collaboration.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting, or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.