In Illinois, the new year comes with new worker protections

Workers in Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois will benefit from some significant wins in 2024. Beginning this month, earners across the state will get up to five days of paid leave. Although a growing number of states offer paid leave, the Paid Leave for All Workers Act allows employees to use time off as they see fit, whether it’s to see the doctor, attend their kid’s soccer game, or simply relax.

This makes Illinois the third state, after Maine and Nevada, to guarantee paid leave — no questions asked. Other key features of the Illinois law include:

  • Up to five days, or 40 hours, of unused time will carry over to the next year.
  • Employees on leave will be paid in full, and tipped workers will earn minimum wage.
  • Exemptions exist for seasonal workers, federal workers, and students who work part time or on a temporary basis for a university.

This win is especially important for workers with low income, who are disproportionately women and people of color and the least likely to have paid time off of any kind, not even sick days. Nationally, more than half of Latine workers and 38 percent of Black workers are unable to earn even any sick time.

Another victory for workers is coming to Chicago. The Chicago Paid Leave Ordinance, originally slated to take effect January 1, will take effect on July 1, 2024. Itgoes further than any  jurisdiction in the nation by giving workers five days of paid leave annually, on top of a guaranteed five sick days. Under the law, employees can carry over an unlimited amount of unused hours.

A coalition, which includes the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Women Employed, Arise Chicago, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and Raise the Floor Alliance, worked closely with supporters in the City Council and mayor’s office to pass the law in November.

Key provisions that bolster workers’ rights and must be protected include:

  • A guarantee of 10 days of paid leave for full-time employees (five sick days and five days of paid leave).
  • The ability to carry over an unlimited number of paid leave days from one year to the next.
  • A requirement that workers get paid for unused paid leave when they leave jobs.
  • The inclusion of domestic workers, whether they are employees or independent .contractors.

Recently, Cook County passed its own paid leave bill that went into effect on December 31. The new law guarantees five days of paid leave and replaces an earlier ordinance that gave workers five sick days. The current bill covers anyone who works in the county or whose employer has a business there. The county will begin enforcement of the bill on February 1, four months before the Chicago law goes into effect.

Opponents continue to try to scale scale back the laws and we will work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. With our coalition partners, we must remain vigilant in the fight for racial and economic justice. Next month, the Shriver Center will release a bold legislative agenda with plans to improve the lives of all working people in Illinois. Read about our victories from the 2022 legislative session here

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Our laws and policies must support people by ensuring fair work at a living wage and by providing the income supports families need to be successful.

Everyone should be paid decently and have basic workplace protections.

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