Young family at home caring for baby

All Workers Deserve Paid Leave

No one should have to choose between their well-being and their paycheck.

Paid leave is a basic protection that every worker needs and deserves. Yet today, more than 1.5 million Illinois workers have no access to even a single paid sick day, and fewer have access to any other type of paid leave, including vacation time.

Fortunately, the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, recently passed by the Illinois Legislature, will ensure that all workers in Illinois have access to paid leave. The Paid Leave For All Workers Act entitles employees to earn 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a minimum of 40 hours each year. Employees can use paid leave time for any purpose—to care for themselves or a family member, to attend medical appointments, to manage needs related to domestic or sexual violence, or simply go to a ball game or spend time with family and friends. The Act covers both full-time and part-time employees. Workers will not need to give their employers a reason for taking leave, but will be required to provide 7 days’ advance notice if the requested leave is foreseeable, and as soon as practicable if it is not.

With passage of the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, Illinois joins a growing number of states choosing to ensure this important protection to workers. Paid sick days laws are or will soon be in place in 14 states, the District of Columbia, and dozens of cities and local governments, including Chicago. More than 46 million private sector workers are covered by these laws. Only two states, Maine and Nevada, and two local jurisdictions, have the more flexible paid leave that can be used for any reason.

Workers paid low wages, who can least afford to miss work, are most likely to lack paid leave. “When I’m sick and I call my supervisor to say I can’t come to work, if I’m lucky he will say I can stay home, but then I lose a day’s pay,” said Milagros, an Illinois worker. “If I miss one day of work, I have nothing left after I pay my bills.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of paid leave to public health. Lack of paid leave is a barrier to workers receiving necessary health and preventive care; working people without paid leave are more than three times as likely than those with paid sick days to go without medical care.

Paid leave is a racial justice issue. Nationally, more than half (54%) of Latino/a/x workers and 38% of Black workers are unable to earn even a single sick day. In addition, low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color, are significantly less likely than higher-wage workers to have access to any other type of paid leave, particularly vacation leave. Combined with other racial disparities in employment and access to health care, the lack of paid leave aggravates racial inequities.

No one should have to choose between their well-being and that of their families and their paycheck. The Shriver Center will continue to advocate for protections that ensure health and safety, income, and job security for low-wage workers.

About the Author

Wendy Pollack
Wendy Pollack
Wendy Pollack
Women's Law & Policy Initiative Director


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