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FMLA Illinois: Family and Medical Leave Explained

If an Illinois employee needs to spend time addressing a family or medical issue, they may be entitled to unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law applies to eligible employees in all 50 states who work for a covered employer.

In addition to the FMLA, Illinois has several state leave laws of its own that may expand on FMLA protections in some cases. These include domestic violence leave, bereavement leave, and other types of leave that aren’t necessarily covered under the FMLA.

Here’s what employers and employees should know about taking time off work under the FMLA in Illinois, and other leave entitlements that Illinois employees may be eligible for.

How Does FMLA Work in Illinois?

Since the Family and Medical Leave Act applies nationwide, there are no differences in what it covers from state to state. FMLA leave works the same way in Illinois as it does in the other 49 states, entitling employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in every 12-month period.

Illinois employees can request FMLA leave in these scenarios, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • To spend time with an adopted or newborn child
  • To bond with a child placed into foster care
  • To take care of a family member who has a serious injury or illness
  • To address the employee’s own serious health condition

FMLA Illinois leave also includes Military Family Leave, with the amount of leave determined by the type of leave requested:

  • Up to 12 weeks of leave for qualifying exigencies related to military service
  • Up to 26 weeks to provide care to an ill or injured service member

To qualify for military caregiver leave, the employee must be the spouse, parent, son or daughter, or next of kin of a current military member or veteran with an injury sustained while on active duty in the Armed Forces.

Who Is Eligible for FMLA Illinois Leave?

FMLA Illinois leave isn’t available to every employee in the state, because some small employers may fall outside the threshold of FMLA coverage. According to the Department of Labor Fact Sheet #28, “covered employer” under the Family and Medical Leave Act refers to:

  • Private-sector employers with at least 50 employees
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies, regardless of size
  • Public and private schools at the elementary and secondary level

In order to qualify for FMLA, Illinois employees must also meet the following conditions:

  • Have put in at least 1,250 hours of work within the last year
  • Have been employed by the same employer for a minimum of one full year (not necessarily consecutively)
  • Work at a location with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius

As we’ll see later, state employees in Illinois have additional options beyond the scope of FMLA regulations. And, of course, private employers may choose to offer their own paid leave or sick leave policies as an employee benefit.

Employee Rights Under FMLA Illinois

FMLA Illinois leave is unpaid, which means that most employees won’t take home a paycheck while they’re on leave. But there are several FMLA rights that an employer must honor throughout an employee’s leave period. These include:

  • The right to keep their health insurance
  • The right to intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule
  • Reinstatement to the same position or an equivalent position

However, there are a few caveats to these employee rights. For instance, although the employee can keep their health benefits, they must continue to pay their share of the premium.

If the employee wants to take FMLA leave for medical reasons, the employer can ask for a medical certification from their doctor or health care professional.

And if the employee requests parental leave following the birth of a child or the adoption of a child, they can only take intermittent leave with the employer’s approval.

Alternatives to FMLA Illinois Leave

FMLA Illinois: injured person with a cast on a leg using crutches

Not all situations are covered by federal family leave laws. Depending on an employee’s work circumstances and medical condition, they may not be eligible for FMLA Illinois leave at all. Here are several other programs that Illinois employees may qualify for:

Illinois Family Bereavement Leave Act (FBLA)

Although FMLA Illinois leave covers the birth of a child or the illness of an employee or family member, the Illinois Family Bereavement Leave Act extends coverage to:

  • Pregnancy loss (miscarriage or stillbirth)
  • A failed adoption, surrogacy agreement, or IVF procedure
  • The loss of a biological child, adopted child, stepchild, or foster child
  • The death of a family member, including children, siblings, parents, spouses, domestic partners, grandchildren, grandparents, in-laws, and stepparents

The Illinois FBLA amends and expands on the Child Bereavement Leave Act, which only covered some of the above situations. Employees can request up to 10 calendar days of unpaid leave, and may be asked to provide “reasonable” documentation that omits the specific reason for leave in order to protect their privacy.

Illinois Domestic Violence Leave

The Illinois Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees who have been a victim of a violent crime, including domestic violence and gender violence.

Employees who have a family member or household member experiencing domestic violence may also be covered. The reason for leave must be to:

  • Obtain medical care
  • Seek legal assistance
  • Receive counseling or support
  • Take steps to relocate or engage in safety planning

Employees should request leave at least 48 hours in advance. Any documentation they submit, such as a court record, must be kept confidential.

Employers with one to four employees are only required to provide up to four weeks of leave, while employers with 15-49 employees must provide up to eight weeks.

Small Necessities Leave

Several states offer an additional type of leave known as Small Necessities Leave, and Illinois is one of them. Employees in Illinois who meet the other conditions of the FMLA (e.g., 1,250 hours of work in the previous year for a covered employer) can take unpaid leave for any the following situations:

  • To take part in activities related to their child’s schooling, such as interviewing at or visiting a new school or attending parent-teacher meetings
  • For their child’s doctor or dentist appointment
  • To take an elderly family member to a medical appointment or nursing home

Employees are limited to four hours of leave per day and up to eight hours of leave per school year, and they may be required to use up other paid time off first.

Additional Leave for State Employees

Finally, there are additional leave options for employees who work for the state of Illinois that go above and beyond FMLA leave. Here are a few scenarios that are covered:

Parental Leave

The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave, but state employees can get up to four weeks of paid leave if they pre-certify their pregnancy. They can also get three weeks of paid leave for adoptions or for pre-certifying their spouse’s pregnancy.

Family Responsibility Leave

State employees can take a full year of leave for certain family responsibilities, such as taking care of a temporarily disabled family member or settling an estate. Although this type of leave is unpaid, the employee’s health and dental insurance premiums will be covered for the first six months.

Organ Donor Leave

State employees can take up to 30 days of unpaid leave per year for bone marrow and organ donations, or one hour of leave for blood donations every 8 weeks.

Manage Employee Leave Requests with Pulpstream

Entrepreneur looking at his watch

Many Illinois employees are covered by the FMLA, the federal family leave law that applies to all 50 states. But Illinois also has several additional leave entitlements, including paid parental leave for state employees who adopt or give birth to a child.

Tracking an employee’s leave balance can be tricky, especially if their situation falls into more than one leave category. That’s why digitizing the leave of absence process can be a real time-saver for your human resources department.

Pulpstream makes it easy to automate key steps in the leave of absence management process and enables your employees to self-service their own leave requests online. 

Get in touch today to schedule a demo and learn more!