When the stresses of family life become significant, you may need to take some time off to focus on the situation at home. Whether it’s the good news of a newborn, or the difficult news of a serious illness in the family, it may require some extended time off. There is a program available to protect your job if that happens.
The Illinois FMLA law is there to help you, and it’s in sharp relief right now between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, when the focus is on the family. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year under certain conditions.
What are some of those conditions?
- The serious medical problem of you or a member of your immediate family.
- The birth of a child.
- Adoption, or bringing a foster child into the home.
When you are away from the job, the medical coverage you receive through your workplace can continue. However, when you are on unpaid leave, the payroll deductions must come from some other source. The employer will pay the amount and consider it an advance on future wages. When you return to the workplace, you will find that those weeks at home will now be showing up as medical premium payroll deductions on your paycheck. It is useful to have a signed agreement in place with your employer for this complicated legal situation.
There are steps you and your employer must take in the process. The employer must notify you about your status, and that notification must be in writing. You, in turn, must follow the instructions the employer outlines in order to maintain your job status in good standing. It’s important to remember that time on active military duty counts towards total employment for FMLA purposes.
Illinois is one of those states that abide by the federal FMLA program. Some states have chosen to create their own, somewhat different, versions of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Workplaces should display the Illinois FMLA poster outlining the program’s basics.
Illinois employee benefits plans will be impacted by a recent ruling. This ruling, made by the US Employee Benefits Security Administration, impacts employers who have health insurance plans that cover mental health treatments. The US Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is a federal agency that monitors compliance with pension and health insurance laws.
The ruling EBSA issued recently impacts Illinois employee benefits plans because the Mental Health Parity Act, also known as MHPA, has been extended. The Mental Health Parity Act has been a law since 1996, and even though it was to expire at the end of September, 2001, the law’s expiration date has been extended 5 times.
The Mental Health Parity Act requires group health insurance plans that cover mental health treatments not place a lower payment limit for this coverage than for other coverages, such as surgery. For instance, in the past group health insurance plans could set lifetime surgery benefit maximum of $250,000 but place the mental health treatment benefit lifetime maximum at $15,000. MHPA makes this kind of disparity illegal. Now, if $250,000 is the lifetime benefit maximum for surgery and other treatments, then this same amount has to be the lifetime benefit maximum for mental health treatments.
MHPA also applies to annual benefit limits. The annual benefit maximum established by the group health insurance plan for surgery and other medical treatments must be the same amount allocated for mental health treatments. These treatments can include visits to counselors such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists. Other mental health treatments included are mental hospital stays for conditions such as schizophrenia and depression. In addition, covered treatments also may include stays in rehab centers to treat drug and alcohol dependency.
MHPA only applies to group heath insurance plans that include treatments for mental health conditions. The Mental Health Parity Act does not mandate that mental health treatments be included in all group health insurance plans.
Just thought I would pop on here and let you know what I learned today about Illinois maternity leave laws from the Illinois Department of Labor web site. Hopefully you will find it interesting and useful!
In a nutshell, if you are a private sector employee Illinois has no laws guaranteeing job protection or benefits for new parents. So if you are a private sector employee your best bet is probably to use the two federal laws that come into play for pregnant women and new parents. They are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and also by the Family Medical Leave Act.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ensures that pregnant women are treated just like everyone else at the company. Basically, it makes it illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, or deny a woman a promotion because she’s pregnant. Also, f a company offers sick leave or disability to other employees, and then it also must offer them for pregnancy-related issues.
The Family Medical Leave Act allows private or public sector employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to, among other things, take care of a newborn baby or newly adopted child. One thing though—if you plan to take advantage of this act you have to work for an employer with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.
There’s a provisions you should be aware of under the FMLA. It is that it is completely legal for key employees to be terminated during leave. What does this mean? It means that your company can terminate you during your leave. You are considered a key employee if you are in the top 10 percent of highest paid employees. This provision was designed to ease economic hardships for companies who were missing key employees.
How do you know if you are one of these key employees? Your company has to tell you. If they decided to terminate you, they also have to give you the options of returning to work before your leave is up.
Now, the story is a bit different if you are a state employee. State employees who are members of the state employees’ group insurance program may be eligible for family and medical leave benefits. Eligible female state employees who pre-certify their pregnancy within the first trimester are entitled to three work weeks, or 15 days, of paid maternity leave. Eligible male state employees who pre-certify their spouse’s pregnancy in the first trimester are entitled to two work weeks, or ten days, or paid paternity leave. Illinois state employees re also entitled to one year of job-protected family leave to care for a newborn.
But what if you are adopting? Well, I found out that state employees who can show that a formal adoption process is underway are entitled to two work weeks, or ten days, of paid adoption leave. The leave begins when the employee gets physical custody of the child.
Illinois employers are not required to recognize holidays nor pay their employees on holidays not worked, unless there has been a prior contract or agreement established. Employers may choose to remain open during holidays, in which case they would pay their employees a normal rate of pay (with the option of any special holiday pay) and observe any overtime rules that may apply.
Employers are required to pay their employees at least semi‑monthly, and to pay every employee all wages earned during the semi‑monthly pay period. Wages earned by employees during a semi‑monthly or bi‑weekly pay period must also be paid no later than 13 days after the end of the pay period in which such wages were earned, unless there has been a valid collective bargaining agreement which provides for a different date or for different arrangements for the payment of wages.
If an employee quits or is fired, they are not entitled to any future holiday pay (for days that have not already occurred) but they are entitled to payment for any unused accrued vacation time. They are not, however, required to pay severance pay, sick pay or holiday pay upon separation, unless it’s been stipulated by employment contract or agreement.
Although employers in Illinois are not required to observe holidays, some do recognize days such as Christmas and New Year’s Day, but even in that case, they are not required to pay their employees if the business is closed and/or the employee is not scheduled to work. Offering holidays off and/or paying employees for holidays not worked are benefits and are above and beyond the Illinois labor laws and completely up to the discretion of the employer (unless those items are terms of a collective bargaining agreement or a contract between the employee and employer).
The Illinois Complete Labor Law poster contains all of teh most up to date labor laws for Illinois as well as the federal laws.