Chicago Employers Required to Give 10 Days Paid Leave—Starting in Six Weeks

Starting on January 1, 2024, most employers in the 5-300x251will be required to provide five days of paid leave for any reason. Thanks to an City Council ordinance passed earlier this month by a 36-12 vote, Chicago employers will have to double that amount, including five sick days and five vacation days, under one of the most sweeping employee leave laws in the U.S.

The ordinance, which new Mayor Brandon Johnson described as “a step towards equity in the workplace,” also mandates that when workers depart their positions, companies with more than 100 employees will have to pay out as many as seven days of unused time, while firms with 51 to 100 employees will need to do so over a two-year phase-in period. Small businesses with less than 50 employees do not need to worry about this provision.

Johnson and progressive allied on the City Council wanted a 15-day allotment originally, but business, retail and trade groups, who are still vehemently against the ordinance, pushed back vociferously. And they’re worried that violations could lead to lawsuits, an issue that the council plans to address through a possible amendment—tabled for now—that would provide businesses with a 30-day time frame to address an alleged violation first.

Opponents warned that businesses will pass along cost-increases to consumers, but Johnson told the Chicago Sun-Times, “What is the cost of workers not being able to show up every single day, and not have the protection of not just time off, but wages, benefits?”

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who voted against the ordinance, testified before City Council that he had taken “frantic phone calls” from entrepreneurs envisioning a “jackpot of litigation” as a result. “The business community can only absorb so much at once,” he told the Sun-Times. “Well-intended ordinances can have really negative consequences.” Another ordinance passed in October is intended to phase out, by 2028, the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, and Illinois Restaurant Association were among the groups speaking out against the time-off ordinance. Brad Tietz of the Chamber called it “the most complicated and expensive ordinance for paid leave in the country” and said: “The important part here is the timing. Small businesses of every size have eight weeks to do this. It’s hard to see that happening.”

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), a reluctant “yes” vote, noted that while she wants employees to have time off, “the ‘time off’ issue is nonexistent if we enact policies that force businesses to close.”