Illinois Employers: With Coronavirus Here, What’s Your Paid Sick Time Strategy? 


Review Paid Sick Time Laws’ “Public Health Emergency” Obligations Now

Players of the game “Pandemic” know time is of the essence to defeat a global health emergency. The current outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) is no game. Illinois employers still have time to dust off their strategies for complying with paid sick time laws, including special duties that trigger only during public health emergencies, but they must act quickly or possibly face a costly absenteeism crisis.

Wait, what? I May Have to Provide Paid Sick Time Off to Workers Who Aren’t Sick?

Yes, you read correctly: for some Chicagoland employers, applicable paid sick time laws may require granting employee paid sick time for certain absences caused during public health emergencies, even though workers and their families aren’t ill. Failing to comply with these and other requirements, such as those set forth in the Chicago, Cook County and Illinois sick leave laws may result in some employers making costly missteps.

Although it may currently seem unlikely that a public health emergency will prevent Chicago-area workers from getting to work, it’s not a far-fetched idea as the number of cases in China continues to rise and more cases are reported world-wide. Even with border closings and airport checks in place here in the U.S., increasing human-to-human transmission is expected.

Here’s what your company needs to know now about Chicago, Cook County and Illinois sick leave laws:

Chicago Paid Sick Time Ordinance

  • Eligible employees who work in Cook County are entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick time in a 12-month period, and the opportunity to carry over half their unused time, up to 20 hours (and possibly more), to subsequent years.

  • Employees may use the time for their own illness, or the illness of a family member or to receive medical care.

  • Employees may also use paid sick time if their workplace is closed or they must care for children whose schools or daycare are closed due to a health emergency. This applies even if the employee or employees’ family isn’t sick!


Cook County Paid Sick Time Ordinance

Eligible employees who work in Cook County (other than in cities or other municipalities that have opted out of the ordinance) are entitled to similar amounts of paid sick time off, and have the right to use the time off under similar emergency circumstances.

Other Sick Time and Leave Rights That Might Trigger in a Coronavirus Pandemic

Employers in Cook County and elsewhere in Illinois should also remember to comply with the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, which obligates employers who offer paid or unpaid sick time for personal illness, to also cover an employee’s absences for a family member’s illness. Depending on the circumstances, they may also be obligated to provide time off for coronavirus-related absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act and/or as a reasonable accommodation under local, federal and state anti-discrimination laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Your Prescription for Coronavirus Preparedness

Savvy employers should check in with HR and, if necessary, an employment lawyer to confirm that paid and unpaid sick time and leave policies comply with all applicable laws. They should also remind managers and supervisors how to administer the policies; even businesses who outsource the management of leave to third party providers would benefit from refreshing leaders on the basics.

We’re ready to update your policies and refresh you on all these requirements. Don’t delay, Call us today


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Gary Savine is an Illinois employment lawyer and founder of Savine Employment Law, Ltd. in Chicago. Gary regularly advises human resources professionals on recently enacted employment laws.