Proposed Chicago ordinance will support working families by expanding paid leave

Everyone should have basic workplace protections so that they can sustain themselves financially, be healthy, and be able to take care of their family. We advocate for benefits and dignity for every working person — particularly those working in the lowest paying and least protected jobs in the country.

Today, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law joined a coalition of workers, City Council members, advocacy organizations, and labor groups at a press conference in support of expanding paid leave for all Chicago workers. The Chicago paid leave ordinance was introduced at today’s City Council meeting by lead sponsor Ald. Michael D. Rodríguez (22nd Ward), chair of the Workforce Development Committee. Twenty-eight of the 50 City Council members are co-sponsors.

“Too many workers, particularly low-wage workers who are mostly women and people of color, are not treated fairly in the workplace,” said Wendy Pollack, founder and director of the Women’s Law and Policy Initiative at the Shriver Center. “Workers earning wages in the bottom 25 percent are the least likely to have access to any form of leave. This ordinance will expand leave for all Chicago workers while giving them the flexibility necessary for a better work-life balance.”

As proposed, the Chicago paid leave ordinance will allow workers to earn one hour of paid leave for every 15 hours worked. The average full-time worker could earn 15 or more days of paid time off in a year. Workers would also be able to use their time off for any purpose, not just illness.

Chicago’s existing paid sick leave ordinance mandates five sick days per year for employees working at least 80 hours within a 120-day period. The proposed ordinance would surpass Illinois’ paid leave requirements, which will require up to five days of leave per year beginning in January 2024. If passed in its current form, it will be the largest expansion of paid time off in any city in the United States.

“No one should have to choose a paycheck over their well-being and the well-being of their families,” said Audra Wilson, president & CEO of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. “That’s why we’ve worked for years on making workplaces fair and equitable, particularly for women and people of color. Workers with low wages need and deserve paid time off, whether it’s for an illness or a child’s soccer game. By expanding paid time off for all workers, Chicago can be a leader for other communities around the country.”

As introduced, the Chicago paid leave ordinance:

  • Gives workers one hour of paid time off for every 15 hours worked; for a full-time employee, that will come out to about 15 paid days off per year.
  • Allows an unlimited number of paid time off days to be carried over from one year to the next.
  • Requires workers to be paid for unused paid time off when they leave their employment.
  • Allows workers to take paid time off without having to provide a reason and without cumbersome documentation and verification procedures for workers or employers.
  • Covers nearly all employees, not just those who work for medium-sized or larger employers.
  • Covers domestic workers, whether they are employees or independent contractors.
  • Preserves employee-friendly protections in the current law for employees whose employers maintain paid sick leave.
  • Imposes financial penalties for employers who do not comply with the law.
  • Mandates that the City of Chicago Office of Labor Standards work with stakeholders on a report providing options on how the city can develop a portable paid time off system for domestic workers.

Organizations standing in support of the Chicago paid leave ordinance include Arise Chicago, the Chicago Federation of Labor, Raise the Floor Alliance, and Women Employed.

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Everyone should be paid decently and have basic workplace protections.

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.

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