All employees interested in taking any leave must meet the specifications outlined by each policy. Individuals who do not meet the eligibility criteria may not be granted an allotment of unpaid or paid leave.
If an employer doesn’t offer a private leave plan, an alternative option is to consider the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal-level leave is essential for dealing with personal and familial ailments. However, there are eligibility requirements employees must meet before being granted time off, including:
- Current employees must have a period of employment for at least 12 months
- Eligible employees must have contributed 1,250 working hours within a 12-month period
- Non-exempt employees must work in locations staffing 50+ employees within a 75-mile radius
Family medical leave offers significant benefits for employees to help care for an ill or injured family member. It is also essential for employees suffering from severe illnesses. FMLA-eligible employees can make use of this leave in the following instances:
- Caring for or bonding with a new child
- Recovering from a severe medical condition
- Assisting an ill or injured non-military family member
- Assisting an ill or injured military family member
With leave under the FMLA, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. During this period, they can choose to use their accrued paid leave to offset the costs. Also, employees are entitled to continue receiving their original healthcare insurance policy through their employers.
Another recent update to Illinois’ family medical leave arrived in 2017. The Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA) now covers leave needed for the “personal care” of family members. Also referred to as the “kin-care” law, it allows employees to use personal sick leave benefits to care for family members over periods of time.
Illinois sick leave law doesn’t require employers to provide paid or unpaid sick leave benefits to their employees. However, most employers likely offer private sick leave options to their staff.
When employers establish sick leave guidelines, they are legally obligated to follow the outlined policies. It is also the responsibility of employers to regularly review and update their leave policies for personal care as needed.
Any changes to existing policies must be written and made available in an accessible area. This also applies to existing sick leave policies the company has privately developed.
Along with any private sick leave benefits, employers in Illinois must abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal leave package available to covered employees in specific circumstances. It is most often used to recuperate from a severe illness or care for an ill or injured family member for reasonable periods.
Family Member Defined
Recent changes to the Illinois sick leave law provide employees with additional coverage. Under the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, employees can use their employer-provided sick leave compensation to care for an injured or ill family member. Employees can also use this leave to attend medical appointments for family members.
It’s important to note that “family members” is explicitly defined as:
- Children (biological, adopted, stepchild, or legal ward)
- Mothers or fathers-in-law
Some employees may be able to benefit from parental leave when caring for a sick child. Like medical leave, if your employer doesn’t have a private parental leave plan, you can use the FMLA.
With the Family Medical Leave Act, you can access the same “vacation days” to care for your ailing children. Parents will have 12 weeks of unpaid sick time as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and special rules above.
Employees must also use the leave to assist children requiring significant medical care. During your leave, your employer must give you access to your existing healthcare plan.
Again, much like medical leave, Illinois employees are entitled to time off through the Employee Sick Leave Act. With the recent amendment in 2017, employees can use the time for family members’ personal care. This includes caring for an ill family member, attending doctor’s appointments, and more.
Employee Protections for Sick Leave
In Illinois, employees are covered by numerous protections when using sick leave. For example, employers cannot discriminate against, threaten, or intimidate employees lawfully using their available sick leave. This law applies to both private company-offered leave and federal leave.
When an employee’s leave ends, they must be offered the same position with their normal rate of pay upon their return. An equivalent offer must be available if the same position is unavailable. This helps ensure employees aren’t taken advantage of while benefitting from sick leave usage.
Other Sick Leave Laws
A few other relevant information regarding Illinois sick leave laws include:
- Leave Limitations
Employer policies can limit the amount of leave used to six months when offering leave through the Employee Sick Leave Act. Employers are not required to extend the total amount of leave employees receive.
- Additional Benefits
Illinois companies are not required to offer other leave benefits to employees. However, private employers can offer extra benefits if desired. This is similar to a private vacation policy.
- Leave Terms
When taking leave under the Employee Sick Leave Act, employees are entitled to the same benefits as standard leave. These guidelines only apply to employers with private sick leave benefit plans.
- Eligible Leave Activities
Certain activities are covered if an employee intends to use the ESLA for medical leave. These include personal care activities such as ensuring the nutritional, hygiene, medical, or safety needs of a family member are met. This coverage also includes providing emotional support to a family with severe health conditions.
- Leave Retaliation
FMLA-covered employers cannot retaliate against employees who take leave to care for relatives. Additionally, employers cannot discriminate against employees who file complaints about violating leave requirements with the Department of Labor. Employees must be paid at their regular rate upon returning from leave.
- Following Guidelines
Employers who choose to offer employer-funded paid leave must provide a notice to employees in writing. Employers must also notify every employee of any changes to existing policies in writing. This information must be in an accessible location where all employees can review the guidelines and policies.
- Leave Payment
Individual employers without private leave policies are not required to give employees paid time off in Illinois. This also applies to paying employees for accrued sick leave upon employment termination. Employees are not entitled to monetary benefits if there aren’t pre-existing payment terms.