Legislation looks to be passed for paid healthcare leave

Legislative dialog is still being formed between state officials that would ensure paid healthcare leave to employees across Illinois.

The new law would secure one hour of paid healthcare leave for every 22 hours worked and one hour of paid healthcare leave for ever 40 hours worked; for full-time and part-time employees respectively.

State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez D-24, a co-sponsor on the Employee Sick Leave Act, said she was first approached by the Women’s Employed organization about legislation during the H1N1 scare.

“There are certain industries where employees are working under unhealthy conditions, surroundings or an unhealthy environment,” Hernandez said.

Right now, no legislation exists in Illinois to provide paid healthcare leave to employees. But, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in Chicago, 42 percent of the private workforce lack access to paid sick days.

“We are taking steps that seem like common sense,” said Hernandez. “Steps like making sure people can take time off when they are sick.”

Melissa Joseph, director of equal opportunity policy for Women Employed, could not be reached for comment by this reporter. Joseph is a primary figure in building paid sick leave legislation.

Hernandez said the act, HB6162, was mirrored off the current Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 passed in California.

In California, AB 1522 states that employees (part-time or temporary) who work for more than 30 days for an employer can begin to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Although, as Hernandez said, such a bill seems like common sense, some business organizations like the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Merchants Association felt otherwise.

“The cost would hurt business, paying for no production,” Hernandez said.

To prevent small business from being places in an economic bind, officials are still developing language to protect those that employ a small staff.

When reaching out to chief sponsor, State Rep. Christian Mitchell D-26 for comment, the representative could not be reached due to sessions in the house.

A source within the representatives office, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that although paid healthcare leave would be provided to employees, the odds of someone using all the time acquired was very slim.

“When you have such a sickness occurring, you have to look at it in terms of policy,” said Hernandez. “People should not be losing their jobs just because they get sick.”

 

 **Editor’s Note: Since the development of this article, the Employee Sick Leave Act has been passed in both the Senate and House and was placed in effect January 1, 2017.

 

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