The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) has issued March 2021 guidance for employers on “Compensation, Paid Leave and the COVID-19 Vaccine,” advising employers on providing employees with time off and flexibility in order to get the first (and as necessary, the second dose) of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mandatory Vaccination Programs

The IDOL guidance states that pursuant to the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, if an employer requires employees to get vaccinated, then the time the employee spends getting the vaccine “is likely compensable,” even if the employee gets vaccinated during non-working time.

IDOL also advises that mandatory vaccination requirements by employers should be combined with paid leave for employees to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (if two doses are required). Alternatively, employers should provide compensation for the time taken by employees in order to comply with the employer’s mandatory vaccine requirement.

Optional Vaccination Programs

If employees choose to obtain the vaccine voluntarily, IDOL advises that they “should be allowed to use sick leave, vacation time or other paid time off” to receive the vaccine.

The guidance states that employers that do not provide paid leave should consider offering FLEX time so that employees can become vaccinated without having to take unpaid time off.  If the employer does not choose to provide FLEX time, then the employer “should allow the employee flexibility to take the time off unpaid” to get vaccinated.

Vaccination Requirements for Employee’s Family Members

Under the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, employers are required to allow their employees to use employer-provided sick leave benefits for absences due to, among other things, medical appointments of family members on the same terms that employees are able to use personal sick leave benefits for their own illnesses or injuries. The IDOL guidance clarifies that an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose would qualify as a permissible medical appointment for purposes of the law if the employer allows the use of an employee’s sick leave benefits for vaccination purposes. As a result, IDOL advises that employers allow the use of sick leave benefits by employees for those taking qualifying family members to receive their COVID-19 vaccination doses.

IDOL recommends that employers review their leave and vaccination policies and revise accordingly to provide leave, time, and flexibility for employees to obtain the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Finally, although not mentioned in this latest IDOL guidance, Illinois employers should continue to carefully review applicable state and local Covid-19 workplace guidance, especially now that we are entering a new phase and employers are starting to prepare for a wider reopening.

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