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Governor Pritzker to Extend Unemployment Benefits to Employees Affected by Coronavirus

Higher Education Labor & Employment

On March 12, Governor Pritzker announced that his administration will file emergency rules clarifying that individuals unemployed due to COVID-19 will be generally qualified for unemployment benefits to the full extent provided by federal law. These rules are expected to be filed this week. While this executive action does not provide Illinois employees with paid sick leave per se, permitting employees to draw upon unemployment benefits while out of work due to coronavirus could lessen the economic impact for employees who either do not have paid sick leave or have already exhausted their entitlement.

Although the spread of COVID-19 has not resulted in legislation requiring all Illinois employers to provide paid sick leave, Chicago and Cook County employers (note: many county municipalities opted out of the earned sick leave ordinance) are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. This leave may be used if an employee is ill or injured, if an employee’s family member is ill or injured, or if the employee’s place of business or child’s school is closed due to public health emergency. Employers will likely see an uptick in requests to use paid sick leave from employees over the coming weeks. For tips on how to address these requests, take a look at our COVID-19 FAQ.

Finally, the severity of COVID-19 has prompted federal legislation requiring employers to provide 14 days of paid sick leave during a public health emergency. A bill was introduced on March 6, 2020, but was blocked by the Senate on March 11, 2020. Those senators that oppose the bill have stated that employers should not be saddled with the cost of providing such leave.

We will continue to monitor developments and legislation related to measures to lessen the economic impact on employees as we grapple with how to best respond to COVID-19.