How long does the average maternity or family medical leave last in Illinois? How much money do you get while bonding with your newborn baby at home, or caring for a sick household member?

The answer to these questions is different for every person.

Illinois has several laws protecting workplace rights, offering job protections, and providing income replacement benefits. Each has unique criteria.

Follow this four-part outline for help with your family situation.

  1. Programs possibly providing income replacement
  2. Labor laws protecting pregnant women at work
  3. Regulations offering job and health care protections
  4. Application for fathers, small businesses, teachers, state employees

Illinois Paid Maternity & Family Leave Benefits

This section answers the question, how much money do we get? Illinois has one law requiring paid maternity, paternity, and adoption leave. However, the policy does not apply to people working in the private sector.

Most new parents will discover that their time away from work will be unpaid. Most will have to cut expenses or find an alternative to government or employer-sponsored income replacement.

Financial Assistance

Most new parents in Illinois do not have paid maternity leave benefits. Families without adequate savings may need financial help making ends meet during the time mom and/or dad stop working. Limited private and public options do exist.

Maternity Leave Loans

Request a personal loan for maternity leave. If approved, an infusion of cash allows mom to spend more time bonding with her newborn baby.

Do not borrow money unless you are certain that mom will return to work at a specific time. The family must repay the money with interest in monthly installments. Verify job-protection rights first.

Single Parents

Single mothers and fathers are often most vulnerable when their only source of income dries up temporarily during an unpaid work absence. Several government programs offer help with ongoing expenses such as childcare, nutrition, and housing.

Marital status is not a qualifier. However, people raising children alone often have the most difficult time earning enough money. Many government support offerings use income criteria to determine eligibility.

Earning Money

Making extra money during an unpaid maternity leave puts parents in control of their destiny. A side-hustle or online work-at-home opportunity does not lead to debt or reliance on the government.

It takes time to build any business. Expectant parents have the advantage of a 9-month warning to start the process. Take proactive action for the best results.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability for maternity leave offers partial income replacement for mothers in Illinois. You must purchase a private plan prior to conception. The policies exclude pre-existing conditions for one year.

The place where you purchase coverage affects the claim payments for new mothers.

  • Individual policies bought outside of employers cover complications of pregnancy only. They help women who must stop working months prior to her due date.
  • Personal policies obtained at the worksite offer the complete. They also pay for mom’s recovery from normal labor and delivery.

Unemployment Benefits

Collecting unemployment benefits in Illinois is a poor substitute for paid maternity leave. Most new fathers and mothers will not qualify. However, there are rare circumstances when parents are eligible to file a claim – often after a long wait.

These basic parameters apply to everyone.1

  • Employer is subject to the unemployment requirement
  • Entirely out of work or working less than full-time
  • Able and available to work
  • Actively seeking work and willing to accept suitable work
  • Quit your job with good cause or terminated through no fault of your own

Pregnant women laid off from work through no fault of her own are often eligible immediately. They can file a claim immediately while she is still physically able and available to work.

Mothers and fathers who quit their job with good cause must wait until they are physically able and/or available to return to work. Illinois unemployment law defines voluntarily leaving for a good cause in a manner that fits many parental situations.

  • A licensed and practicing physician deems her physically unable to perform her work. This occurs frequently during a pregnancy disability, and after normal labor and delivery.
  • The individual’s assistance is necessary for caring for his or her spouse, or child, who is in poor physical or mental health. This occurs when dad needs to care for his wife suffering complications before birth, or when their baby requires care after discharge from a NICU.

Paid Sick Leave

Illinois Paid Sick Leave Act (Public Act 99-0841) took effect in January 2017. The policy requires employers to allow personnel to use accumulated sick time to care for certain relatives. The specified relatives include spouses, children, and domestic partners.2

Paid Leave for Public Employees

Section 303.130 of the Illinois Administration Code calls for paid maternity, paternity, and adoption leave benefits for public officials and employees. The income replacement benefits last for 4 weeks, or 20 working days.3

  • Paid maternity and paternity leave with proof of pregnancy of the female partner
  • Paid adoption leave commencing with physical custody

Illinois Labor Laws Regarding Pregnancy

Several federal and Illinois-based labor laws protect women’s job rights during her pregnancy, and after she gives birth and returns to work. It is illegal to discriminate unfairly against women while they are expecting.

The federal laws apply across the country. The Human Rights Act adds additional protections for Illinois mothers.

Human Rights Act

Public Act 98-1050 amended The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to promote pregnancy fairness through specific accommodations. The new policies establish that pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions enjoy special protections.

Under the IHRA, covered employers must treat pregnant women fairly when hiring, segregating, recruiting, promoting, renewing employment, providing training, discharging, disciplining, determining tenure or seniority, or making any decision regarding the terms, privileges or conditions of employment.

Also under the IHRA, employers must make reasonable accommodations to pregnant women, unless the accommodation would result in undue hardship to the employer. Reasonable accommodations extend beyond this brief list.4

  • More frequent or longer bathroom and rest breaks
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk or breastfeeding
  • Seating modifications
  • Providing time off to recover from childbirth
  • Granting a leave necessitated by pregnancy complications

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal regulation that also pertains to expectant women in the Illinois workplace. The PDA protects expectant women’s rights while looking for a job, and when actively employed. After returning to the workforce, the ability to express milk is protected under a related statute.

The PDA also requires that any group health insurance plan provided by an employer with more than fifteen employees cover an expectant mother to the same extent as any other covered sickness. This means that pregnancy-related conditions have the same:

  • Deductibles
  • Coinsurance
  • Premium rates

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is another federal regulation that also applies to pregnant women in the Illinois workplace. Under the ADA, a covered employer must make reasonable accommodations for women meeting eligibility guidelines.

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables the person to perform essential job functions. An eligible disability limits a major life activity, which is often defined as a task that most people are able to perform adequately with very little difficulty.

Illinois Family Medical Leave Laws

Two Family Medical Leave laws offer unpaid job and health insurance protections to covered workers in Illinois. This section answers the question, how many weeks do we get?

New parents will find three different answers: 52 weeks, 12 weeks, and nothing. It depends on where you work, and the number of hours worked in the last year.

Family Responsibility Leave

The Illinois Family Responsibility Leave Act grants public employees the option to be absent from work for up to one year. The law does not pertain to people working in private industry.

A family responsibility arises from the need to provide care, full-time supervision, custody, or non-professional treatment for a member of the person’s immediate family or household.

The standards for granting this right include the following.5

  • Nursing or custodial care of a newborn or adopted baby
  • Care for a temporarily disabled family member

Federal FMLA

Workers are not paid during their absence. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation that grants 12 weeks of unpaid job protections. The law pertains to individuals working in private industry and the public sector in Illinois, and across the country.

FMLA also requires that employers cannot terminate an employee’s group health insurance. It must maintain the coverage on the same basis as if the individual continued to work.

The length of leave depends on hours worked and company size eligibility.

Hours Worked

FMLA has hours worked and employee tenure eligibility criteria. The affected person must have worked 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months. In addition, the individual must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.

  • Part-time employees averaging less than 24 hours per week do not qualify.
  • Newly hired employees also do not qualify.

Therefore, part-time and newly hired workers have zero weeks of legal job protections.

Less than 50 Employees

FMLA also has size criteria. Companies with less than 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius are not subject to the legal requirements.

  • Small businesses with less than 50 employees do not have to comply.
  • Branch office personnel of larger companies may not qualify.
  • Telecommuting workers living in remote areas may not qualify.

Therefore, small business, branch office, and telecommuting employees in private industry have zero weeks of legal job protections.

Who Qualifies for Employee Leave of Absence in Illinois

Finally, this section pulls all the pieces together. It summaries which set of Illinois parents qualify for specific employee leave of absence benefits. As you will see, the outcome depends on gender and the place where each person works.

Fathers on Paternity Leave

Illinois fathers on paternity leave of absence face a mixed bag of benefits.

On one hand, many of the workplace laws do not pertain to men.

  • Human Rights Act
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • Americans with Disability Act

On the other hand, several of the workplace regulations extend extra privileges for fathers.

  • Paid sick leave helps fathers by opening up an opportunity for caregiver benefits. Mothers may use up accumulated time with her own medical condition.
  • FMLA allows fathers to take 12 weeks of paternity leave to bond with his newborn. Dads do not face the possibility of exhausting any time with his own disability.

Teachers & Educators

Illinois teachers have additional employee leave of absence rights under FMLA and through the retirement system.

FMLA carves out special provisions for certain teachers and educators. Teacher rights include intermittent leave toward the end of the school term. The provisions also address what happens when a teacher gives birth during the summer months when school is not in session.6

The Illinois Teacher Retirement System (TRS) provides temporary, nonoccupational disability coverage to members with three or more years of service. This program offers maternity leave pay for educators meeting the service requirement.7

Small Business Employees

Small business employees in Illinois have the fewest parental leave of absence rights. Many of the legal protections have size criteria. Therefore, they do not cover every small business. Nevertheless, some do.

EntitlementSmall Business Employee Size
Unemployment1 +
PDA15 +

Small businesses can offer voluntary short-term disability. Groups simply need to have 3 or more employees enroll in one or more programs.

State Employees

Illinois state employees have the richest set of parental leave benefits. Every law mentioned thus far in this article pertains to state government personnel. In addition, two of the regulations apply exclusively to them.

  • The Family Responsibility Act (mentioned earlier) covers state employees and allows for 12 months of job protections
  • Section 303.130 offers state personnel paid parental leave of absence benefits lasting 4 weeks


  1. Unemployment Compensation
  2. Paid Sick Leave
  3. Section 303.130
  4. Human Rights Act
  5. Family Responsibility Leave
  6. Teachers and FMLA
  7. Teacher Retirement System