CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker signed expansive paid leave legislation into law Monday.
SB208 makes Illinois the third state in the country, and the first in the Midwest, to mandate paid time off to be used for any reason, the governor's office said.
In Illinois today, there are 4 million people who don't have access to a single day of sick leave. In Chicago where sick leave is guaranteed, most low-wage workers don't have vacation days. That is about to change.
The legislation provides employees with up to 40 hours of paid leave during a 12-month period, meaning approximately 1.5 million workers will begin earning paid time off starting in 2024, Pritzker's office said.
WATCH: Gov. Pritzker signs expansive paid leave legislation into law
"Employers benefit from allowing employees to tend to the urgent personal matters of their lives. Workers' productivity increases, and they often gain greater passion for their job when they can manage the stresses they face outside work. I'm exceptionally proud that labor and business came together to recognize the value of this requirement to employees and employers alike," the governor said in a statement.
Under existing law, workers are not guaranteed pay when taking time off for sick leave, child care, mental health reasons, medical appointments, vacation or any other reason, according to the governor's office.
"Sometimes, life gets in the way of life. Things happen in your life that are maybe small emergencies to someone else, but a big emergency in your own life and this is just one way and one beginning to what needs to happen," Pritzker said.
Starting on March 31, 2024, or 90 days following commencement of employment, workers can begin using their earned time off for any reason without the requirement of providing documentation to their employer under the Paid Leave for Workers Act.
This new law applies to all private sector employers of all sizes and state and local governments. Seasonal workers, federal employees and college students working temporary jobs for their university's are exempt. Employees who already receive at least five days off per year are also not included.
SEE MORE: Illinois paid leave legislation heading to governor's desk
Ordinances in Cook County and Chicago already require employers to offer paid sick leave, and workers in those locations will continue to be covered by the existing laws rather than the new bill.
The Chicago and Cook County ordinances served as pilot programs for the statewide legislation, and assuaged critics who predicted mass business closures that didn't come to fruition, said Sarah Labadie, director of advocacy and policy at Women Employed, a nonprofit that has fought for paid leave since 2008 and helped push through the legislation.
"Our goal was to make sure you had time off for sick time, and if you had to take care of an ill family member, but it is more expansive. It offers time if you want to go to your kid's school play, or if you just need to go visit your mom in California," Labadie said.
The law will also exempt employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement in the construction industry and parcel delivery industry.
Seasonal workers such as lifeguards will be exempt, as will federal employees or college students who work non-full-time, temporary jobs for their university.
Employees will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours total, although the employer may offer more.
Employees will be paid their full wage while on leave and tipped workers will be paid the minimum wage in their respective locale. An employer cannot require an employee to find their replacement for the leave, the governor's office said.
"You don't have to find your own replacement, which is often how low-wage workers would have to do this. It is very protective," Labadie said.
However, if an employee's use of paid leave is foreseeable, an employer may require the employee to provide seven calendar days' notice before the leave is taken.
Requiring paid vacation is rare in the U.S. - just Maine and Nevada have similar laws - although common in other industrialized nations.
Maine and Nevada also allow workers to decide how to use their time, but substantial exemptions apply. Maine's Earned Paid Leave law only applies to employers with more than 10 employees, and Nevada's exempts businesses with less than 50. Illinois' will reach nearly all employees and has no limit based on the business size.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.