Pritzker signs bill

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the Paid Leave for All Workers Act into law Monday at a news conference in Chicago.

CHAMPAIGN — A new state law guaranteeing nearly all employees in the state some paid time off could wind up having a negative impact on workers, according to a University of Illinois labor professor.

Michael LeRoy said the Paid Leave for All Workers Act (SB 208), signed into law Monday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, addresses a need in the public interest for paid sick time, “but I think it goes too far by giving people open-ended paid leave.”

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, guarantees employees in Illinois the right to earn a minimum of 40 hours of paid leave — which can be used for any purpose — per 12 months.

Employees will earn one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours they work up to the 40-hour minimum, to be paid at their usual hourly rate.

Employees who earn tips or commissions must be paid at least the full minimum wage when they take their time off.

Illinois will become the third state, after Nevada and Maine, to require paid time off, though 14 other states have laws concerning paid sick time.

“Working families face so many challenges, and it’s been my mission to alleviate those burdens in every way I can,” Pritzker said.

Under existing law, workers aren’t being guaranteed any pay for taking time off for such reasons as illness, child care, mental health, medical appointments and vacation.

Under the new law, “employers benefit from allowing employees to tend to the urgent personal matters of their lives,” Pritzker said. “Workers’ productivity increases, and they often gain greater passion for their job when they can manage the stresses they face outside work.”

LeRoy said requiring paid sick time is in the public’s interest because it enables sick employees to stay home. He’s concerned, though, about how the open-ended use of 40 hours of paid time off will affect small employers.

LeRoy said he’s further concerned that this new law will also aggravate the problem of employees being reclassified as independent contractors — resulting in those employees not only losing the new paid-time-off guarantee but also falling outside such current legal protections as earning at least minimum wage and entitlement to workers compensation.

“As more and more benefits are legislated by pro-employee lawmakers, more and more employers try to evade the legal employment relationship,” LeRoy said.

Some employers will have to bite the bullet and comply, he said, but there will be others who respond by saying “How much can I outsource my work?”

Rhonda Lutz, owner of Old Orchard Lanes and Links in Savoy, said if the law also covers part-time employees (it does), then it will have an effect on her business.

“I have a lot of first-time workers, right out of high school,” she said.

The business is already hard to staff, Lutz said, and “it’s hard to find anybody willing to work that much, anyway.”

The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce already began educating its members about the new law when it was still in bill form, according to Madeline Herrman, the organization’s director of public policy.

“The Paid Leave for All Workers Act resulted from negotiations between statewide labor, business association groups and legislators during the agreed bill process,” she said. “We monitored this legislation in partnership with the state chamber.”

Because this is a state law and all Illinois employers will be held to the same standard, the bigger question beyond what effect it may have on Champaign County is whether it will affect Illinois employers’ ability to attract talent and the state’s ability to attract new companies, Herrman said.

“Only time will tell,” she said. “As an organization that helps to provide solutions for area employees, we will be able to provide resources and education to ensure that Champaign County employers are in compliance with their PTO (paid time off) and leave policies.”