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May 20, 2021

Illinois and Chicago update sick leave requirements to include time off for COVID-19 vaccines

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed into law H.B. 158 that, effective April 27, 2021, extends coverage under the state's Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA) to include stepchildren and expands the circumstances under which employees must be allowed to take sick leave.

Additionally, the Illinois Department of Labor and the city of Chicago have addressed the requirements governing time off for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act

The ESLA (820 ILCS 191.1-99), which took effect January 1, 2017, requires that Illinois employersallow employees to use at least a portion of the sick leave time that is already available to them, under certain existing employer policies, for absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of a family member on the same terms the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee's own illness or injury.

With the enactment of H.B. 158, a family member is now defined as an employee's child, stepchild, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.

Under prior law, sick leave was required to be provided for a family member's personal illness, injury, or medical appointment. H.B. 158 adds that employees must also be given time off for a family member's personal care, defined as activities to ensure that a covered family member's basic medical, hygiene, nutritional, or safety needs are met, or to provide transportation to medical appointments for a covered family member who is unable to meet those needs himself or herself. Personal care also means being physically present to provide emotional support to a covered family member with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care.

The Department provides frequently asked questions (FAQs) to explain the requirements under the ESLA. (Note that at the time we issued this alert, the FAQs were not yet updated to reflect the changes under H.G. 158.)

Illinois guidance on time off for vaccines

In March 2021, the Department issued guidance on the requirements for time off for COVID-19 vaccines as follows.

  • Mandatory vaccines. Under the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL) and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an employer requires employees to get vaccinated, employees likely must be paid for the time employees spend obtaining the vaccine, even if the vaccine occurs outside of the employee's normal working hours.
  • Optional vaccines. Employees who choose to obtain the vaccine voluntarily should be allowed to utilize sick leave, vacation time or other paid time off to receive the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Employers that do not choose, and are not obligated to provide any paid leave, should consider offering employees "flex" time so that they can obtain the vaccine without losing pay. If the employer does not choose to provide flex time, it should allow employees to take unpaid leave.
  • Vaccines for family members. An appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine first or second dose qualifies as a permissible medical appointment for purposes of the ESLA if the employer allows the use of an employee's sick leave benefits for purposes of the COVID-19 vaccine. Accordingly, employers should allow employees to use sick leave benefits to take a qualifying family member to receive the vaccine.

The Department recommends that employers review their leave and vaccination policies and revise accordingly to provide leave, time, and flexibility in order to encourage employees to obtain the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Chicago guidance on time off for vaccines

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in a recent press release that the City Council passed an ordinance establishing protections for Chicago workers taking time off for the COVID-19 vaccine as follows:

  • All employers are prohibited from taking any adverse action, including termination, demotion, layoff or punitive schedule changes, against workers for taking time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Employers cannot force workers to get the vaccine outside of their regular shift.
  • If an employer requires their workers to receive the vaccine, they must pay them at their regular rate of pay for up to four hours per dose.
  • If an employer does not require their workers to get the vaccine, they must allow workers that have accrued paid sick leave to use that time to receive the vaccine if the worker chooses to use it.
  • Employers that violate this ordinance, which will be enforced by the Chicago Office of Labor Standards within the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, are subject to fines between $1,000 and $5,000 per offense.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Workforce Tax Services - Employment Tax Advisory Services
   • Kristie Lowery (
   • Kenneth Hausser (
   • Debera Salam (


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