Illinois’ Cook County Updates Paid Leave Ordinance

Compliance, Employee Benefits

On December 14, 2023, the Illinois’ Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to amend the existing earned sick leave ordinance to a broader, general paid leave ordinance effective December 31, 2023. This change follows Chicago’s recent updates to its paid leave ordinance and comes as the Illinois-wide Paid Leave for All Workers’ Act nears its effective date of January 1, 2024. The updated ordinance broadly mirrors the statewide Paid Leave for All Workers’ Act, though the state and the county rules are not exactly the same. The enforcement date of the Cook County ordinance is scheduled for February 1, 2024.

Covered Employers and Covered Employees

The Cook County paid leave ordinance covers virtually all employers and employees in Cook County, Illinois. Employers with employees in Cook County are covered unless they are the federal government, the Illinois state government, or an Indian tribe.

Employees working in Cook County are covered unless they are:

  • an “employee” as defined by the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act;
  • a student working on a temporary basis at less than full-time for the college or university they attend; or
  • an employee of a higher education institution who is employed for less than two consecutive calendar quarters during a calendar year and does not have a reasonable expectation of being rehired next year.

Accrual, Carryover, and Frontloading

Employees who work in Cook County are entitled to earn one hour of paid leave for every forty hours worked, up to a minimum of forty hours in a twelve-month period. Any unused paid leave at the end of a twelve-month period carries over to the next twelve-month period, though employers can limit employees to using forty hours of paid leave in a twelve-month period.

Alternatively, employers can choose to frontload the required amount of paid leave by providing the minimum amount of paid leave on the first day of the twelve-month period. Employers who frontload paid leave are not required to carry over unused paid leave from year-to-year.

Employers with an existing paid leave policy can use that policy to comply with the ordinance’s requirements if the policy allows an employee to take at least forty hours of leave for any reason at the employee’s discretion.

Use of Paid Leave

Employees begin to accrue paid leave on the first day of employment or on the effective date of the ordinance, whichever is later. Employees can use paid leave ninety days after beginning employment or ninety days after the ordinance’s effective date, whichever is later.

Use of paid leave can be requested orally or in writing subject to the reasonable paid leave notification requirements of an employer. If the need to use paid leave is foreseeable, notice can be required up to seven days beforehand. If the need is unforeseeable, notice must be provided as soon as practicable.

Employer Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers must post a notice in their facilities located in Cook County that explain an employee’s rights under the paid leave ordinance. Written notice of an employee’s rights under the ordinance must also be provided at the time of hire. Finally, the notice must also be included in an employer’s handbook if they have one. Cook County is currently creating a model notice to use for this purpose.

Employers must retain records documenting an employee’s hours worked, their paid leave accrued and taken, and the remaining paid leave balance for an employee for at least three years.

Key Takeaways:

Employers covered by the Cook County paid leave ordinance would be well-served to review the terms of the ordinance before its December 31, 2023, effective and February 1, 2024 enforcement date. Employers with existing paid leave policies should verify their compliance if they wish to use their existing policy to meet the ordinance’s requirements.

The information provided is a summary of laws and regulations relating to employee benefit plan compliance. This information should not be construed as legal advice. In all cases, employers should consult with their own legal counsel.

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