How long does the average maternity leave last in Illinois? How much money do you get while out on bed rest, recovering from childbirth, or bonding with your newborn baby at home?

The answer to these questions is different for every person.

Parents who work for the state government enjoy far better income benefits during their time off than most of the taxpayers in private industry who support them.

Meanwhile, the number of weeks that unpaid job and health insurance protections last is unclear. Parents who qualify for FMLA get twelve weeks, while all mothers have exclusive rights under the state-based Pregnancy Leave Act.

Paid Maternity Leave in IL

Illinois does not have any laws on the books (at article publication) that require paid maternity leave benefits to workers in private industry. However, these same people fund compensated time off for parents employed by the state.

Loans, disability policies, and unemployment benefits can sometimes help while out of work without your regular income.

Loans

Request a maternity leave loan if you work in private industry, and you can rely on job protections under FMLA (see below). If approved, a lender licensed in Illinois could deposit money directly into your checking account.

Use the borrowed funding to bond with your baby longer without worrying about bills during your unpaid time off from work. Set aside a portion of the cash to make the first two monthly payments, which could come due while you are still away from the job.

Debt Relief

Debt relief programs are a long-term strategy for dealing with the lack of paid maternity leave in Illinois. Many new parents face a three-part financial punch in the face. It could take years to recover from this trifecta.

  1. Lost income while home on bed rest or recovering from childbirth
  2. Extra medical bills associated with hospital stays and doctor visits
  3. Job-loss for people who do not qualify for FMLA or who need more than twelve weeks

What should be a time of joy can easily lead to a debt spiral. Budget accordingly.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability in Illinois is the primary way that women who work in private industry can obtain paid maternity leave benefits. However, because the state does not have a mandatory program, you must purchase a policy from an insurance company – before conception.

Keep these three points in mind regarding short-term disability.

  1. Pre-existing condition clauses exclude current pregnancy for twelve months
  2. Worksite-based plans provide the most comprehensive benefits and lowest premiums, but many employers do not offer a voluntary plan
  3. Individual policies bought outside of employers do not cover recovery from labor and delivery, but often address medical complications of pregnancy before and after birth

Unemployment

Filing for unemployment in Illinois is a poor substitute for paid parental leave benefits. New mothers and fathers do not qualify during the time they are unable and or unavailable for work. Plus, many remain employed when covered under FMLA (see below).

However, some parents who resign or lose their jobs while home could become eligible after their disability or caretaking duties cease. Under IL law, people who left work for a good cause reason may qualify.[1]

  • A licensed and practicing physician deemed the mother physically unable to perform her work duties
  • The father needs to assist his wife who is in poor physical health due to pregnancy complications
  • Either parent needs to care for a seriously sick infant who may have arrived pre-term or with low birth weight

State Employees

All state government employees in Illinois enjoy taxpayer-funded paid parental leave benefits. New mothers and fathers who work for the public are eligible for ten weeks (50 workdays) of compensated time off per twelve-month period.

The paid time off begins at birth or the placement of an adopted child. State employees must provide proof of pregnancy at least thirty days before the expected due date, as well as evidence of birth.[2]

Family Medical Leave Act in IL

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation that answers the question of how long unpaid time off from work lasts in Illinois. Because the law covers roughly half of the population, your answer could be twelve weeks, or whatever your employer decides.

Requirements

Pay close attention to FMLA stipulations, as the federal rules apply to Illinois parents without modification by the state.

  1. Take unpaid job-protected time off without interference, restraint, or retaliation
  2. Have group health insurance maintained under the same terms and conditions
  3. Restored to the same or an equivalent position after the 12 weeks

Of course, these requirements pertain only to eligible employees working for covered employers.

Eligible Employees

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Logged at least 1,250 hours of service in the last 12 months
  • Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

Covered Employers

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks
  • Public agency regardless of the number of people it employs
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of people it employs

Under 50

Parents who work for small businesses with less than fifty employees do not qualify for FMLA legal protections – unless they are teachers at a small charter school or public servants at a government agency.

Illinois does not have a law on the books (at the publication date) that extends FMLA rights to small employers with fewer than fifty workers. If you fall into this category, consult your employee handbook to determine how long your parental leave lasts.

While small businesses do not have to comply with FMLA rules, the Pregnancy Leave Act still applies to all female workers.

Pregnancy Leave Act

The Illinois Pregnancy Leave Act (IPLA) amended an earlier law to extend certain legal rights to far more women than FMLA typically helps.[3]

  • Applies to any employer employing one or more workers
  • Protects part-time, full-time, and probationary employees
  • Covers female employees who are:
    • Pregnant
    • Recently gave birth
    • Have a pregnancy-related medical condition

The IPLA requires employers to grant time off required by pregnancy or recovery from childbirth. Also, the employer must reinstate the woman to her original job or an equivalent position with the same seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other applicable service credits.

However, the IPLA does not specify how long the job-protected leave lasts. You may need to hire an attorney to answer that question.

Fathers

Illinois fathers on paternity leave naturally require fewer legal rights than mothers because they do not carry a baby in a womb or endure the pain of childbirth. However, several laws do apply to men.

  • Unemployment compensation could be available to fathers after paternity leave ends when dad must voluntarily quit work to care for his spouse suffering pregnancy complications, or his infant with a critical medical condition
  • Fathers working for the state government enjoy ten weeks of paid paternity leave benefits for the birth or adoption of a child
  • Dads working for FMLA covered employers who meet the employee eligibility criteria enjoy twelve weeks of unpaid paternity leave under two scenarios
    • Bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child
    • Care of spouse or infant with a severe medical condition

Footnoted Sources

[1] (820 ILCS 405/601) (from Ch. 48, par. 431)

[2] IL Admin Code Section 303.130

[3] Public Act 98-1050