On April 27, 2021, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 158 (“HB 158” or “amendment”), which amends the Employee Sick Leave Act (“ESLA” or “Act”) to include coverage for leave due to a covered family member’s personal care.
Which Employers are Covered by ELSA?
The Act applies to employers with at least one Illinois employee that provide personal sick leave benefits.
What are Personal Sick Leave benefits?
Personal sick leave benefits are broadly defined as “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 a 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.”
What does ESLA Require?
If an employer has an existing sick leave policy, ELSA requires employers to permit employees to use half of their accrued sick leave under an employer’s policy for absences related to the illness, injury, or medical appointment of certain family members.
Does ESLA Require Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave?
ESLA does not actually require employers to provide paid sick leave and its requirements only apply to employers who already provide leave to their employees. An employer that does not already provide sick leave is not required by the Act to adopt a sick leave policy.
For example, an employee who accrues 40 hours of sick leave each year under an employer policy is entitled to use 20 hours of that time for family leave purposes.
What are the Qualifying Reasons under ELSA?
Previously, employees could use their personal sick leave benefits for absences due to their family member’s illness, injury, or medical appointment.
As a result of HB 158, employees can now use their personal sick leave benefits for their family member’s “personal care” which is defined to include the following activities:
- to ensure that the family member’s basic medical, hygiene, nutritional, or safety needs are met;
- to provide transportation to medical appointments for a family member who is unable to meet their own needs;
- to provide emotional support to a family member with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care by being physically present with them.
What if an Employer’s Leave Policy already Permits use for the same Reasons Covered by ELSA?
Employers with existing paid leave policies that already permit employees to use at least half of their accrued leave for reasons relating to a family member’s illness, injury, or medical appointment on the same terms that they can use for their own illness or injury are not required to modify their policies.
What Family Members are Covered under ELSA?
Under ELSA, leave must be permitted for absences related to the illness, injury or medical appointment of an employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.
Can an Employer Require Notice of Leave?
Yes. An employer can require that leave requested for family purposes under ELSA be subject to the same verification or notice that is required for other leave taken under the employer’s existing policy.
For example, if the policy requires two days’ notice prior to an employee taking time off for their own medical appointment, the employer can require the same notice timeframe for leave due to a grandparent’s medical appointment.
Are there other Prohibitions under the Act?
Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee who uses or attempts to use personal sick leave benefits for a family leave reason, alleges a violation, or cooperates in an investigation of an alleged violation, or opposes any policy or practice prohibited by the Act.
Employers who have employees in Illinois should review their sick leave policies to ensure compliance with the updates to ELSA and in consideration of any other local ordinances (such as the Chicago Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance) that may apply to their employees.