On January 10, 2023, the Illinois legislature passed SB 208, also known as the Paid Leave for All Workers Act, a bill that provides paid leave to virtually all Illinois employees. Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law. SB 208 would take effect January 1, 2024.

SB 208 would guarantee Illinois employees up to a minimum of forty hours of paid leave during a 12-month period. Under SB 208, employers would have the option to either require their employees to accrue paid leave throughout a 12-month period or provide all paid leave to their employees on the first day of employment for the 12-month period. Employees would accrue one hour of paid leave for every forty hours worked.

Under the accrual model, employees would be able to carryover their earned and unused paid leave on an annual basis. While SB 208 does not limit how much paid leave employees would be allowed to carryover, it would allow employers to impose a forty-hour limit of paid leave in a 12-month period. Employers that frontload paid leave to their employees would not be required to allow carryover of earned and unused paid leave.

Significantly, SB 208 would allow employees to use paid leave for any reason of the employee’s choosing. Employers would be unable to require employees to provide a reason for the leave or documentation or certification as proof of the leave.

Pursuant to SB 208, employers would be able to impose reasonable paid leave policy notification requirements. Employers would be allowed to require employees to provide seven days’ advance notice of the need for paid leave, if such need is foreseeable, and to provide notice as soon as is practicable, if the employee’s need for leave is not foreseeable. If an employer requires notice for unforeseeable need, it must provide its employees with a written policy that contains procedures for the employees to provide notice.

Notably, SB 208 generally would not require employers to, upon an employee’s termination or separation from employment, pay an employee for any accrued and unused paid leave at the time of termination.

SB 208 would not apply to all Illinois employers and employees. For example, employees and employers would be able to waive the paid leave requirements of SB 208 pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Further, SB 208 would not apply to employers covered by a municipal or county ordinance that requires employers to provide any form of paid leave to their employees, such as the Chicago Paid Sick Leave and Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinances.

With the likelihood that SB 208 will be signed into law soon, employers should prepare now by reviewing and amending their paid leave policies to conform to these anticipated new requirements, as there are steep consequences for non-compliance. Employers that violate SB 208 would be liable for underpayment and damages to affected employees, as well as civil penalties. And, in a successful civil action, employees would be entitled to their costs and attorneys’ fees.