Illinois Expands Scope of the Employee Sick Leave Act

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On April 27, 2021, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 158 (HB 158), which amends the Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA)1 to cover leave for a family member’s “personal care.” The ESLA—Illinois’ statewide “kin care” law—has been in effect since January 1, 2017, and generally requires employers to permit employees to use their “personal sick leave benefits”2 to care for the employee’s family member. Employers may limit the amount of annual kin care leave to the amount of personal sick leave that would be earned or accrued during six months at the employee’s then-current rate of entitlement. In other words, for employees accruing 40 hours of personal sick leave benefits per year, the ESLA entitles employees to use 20 of those 40 hours for care of a family member.

Previously, employees could use their personal sick leave benefits for absences due to their family member’s illness, injury, or medical appointment. Now, with the amendments under HB 158, employees can also use their personal sick leave benefits for their family member’s “personal care.” Personal care includes activities to ensure that the family member’s basic medical, hygiene, nutritional, or safety needs are met, or to provide transportation to medical appointments, for a family member who is unable to meet their own needs. Personal care also means being physically present to provide emotional support to a family member with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care.

Employers with operations in Chicago or Cook County should already be familiar with the local paid sick leave requirements that entitle employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year for a family member’s illness or injury, medical care, treatment, or diagnosis, or preventive medical care. Under the ordinances, employees may use an additional 20 hours of paid sick leave per year if they take a FMLA-qualifying leave of absence, such as a leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. With HB 158’s expansion to cover a family member’s “personal care,” Chicago and Cook County employers need to ensure that they are interpreting their policy provisions consistent with both the ESLA and the applicable paid sick leave ordinance(s).

Illinois employers outside Chicago and Cook County should likewise review their personal sick leave policies to determine whether additional changes are required for compliance with the ESLA, as now amended.

 

Footnotes

2 “Personal sick leave benefits” means any paid or unpaid time available to an employee as provided through an employment benefit plan or paid time off policy to be used as a result of absence from work due to personal illness, injury, or medical appointment. An employment benefit plan or paid time off policy does not include long-term disability, short-term disability, an insurance policy, or other comparable benefit plan or policy. 820 ILCS 191/5.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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