Illinois State COVID-19 FAQs
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 07/17/2020
Table of Contents
As Illinois re-opens and businesses restore or start planning to restore operations, we at Paychex remain dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. Please see below for guidance and best practices around some common questions related to these new challenges for Illinois.
Please note that the information within this document is current as of the date published and guidance may change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop.
What are the eligibility requirements for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Illinois?
Although specific eligibility requirements may vary by state, employees in Illinois generally qualify if they:
- Are totally or partially unemployed (which may include layoffs and reductions in hours/wages);
- Lost their job through no fault of their own (e.g. did not quit or were not terminated without just cause as defined by IL law);
- Have worked in covered employment in a “base period.” A “base period” is a minimum amount of wages earned, which is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before benefit account begins;
- At the time of application, are willing, able, and available to work, and actively seeking suitable work, unless otherwise exempt from this requirement.
For more information on eligibility requirements, how to apply for, and how to file a claim for Unemployment Insurance, please visit the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) website, review the IDES Unemployment Insurance Benefits Handbook, or explore the IDES Unemployment Resource Page.
Employee Safety & Travel Concerns
Where can I find state and county-specific requirements for using safety equipment or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks in the workplace?
On April 30, 2020, Governor Jay Robert "J. B." Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-32 for the State of Illinois which requires all individuals over the age of two-years-old who are medically able to wear a face covering/mask when in a public place and/or when working, if they’re unable to properly social distance. Executive Order 2020-32 also includes operational requirements for essential and non-essential businesses as well as general guidance on the state-wide stay-at-home order.
Despite the reopening of certain businesses as part of the Restore Illinois Plan, Governor Pritzker still requires all individuals over the age of two, except those with documented medical and/or religious exceptions, to wear face coverings/masks when they’re unable to socially distance in public and/or the workplace. Governor Pritzker also highly encourages people to continue to follow all safety and social distancing guidance provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the CDC.
For county-specific regulations for the use of additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in public, for general guidelines regarding symptom screening in the workplace, and for other location-based COVID-19 travel and/or quarantine protocols, please visit your applicable county’s website. For resources specific to Chicago, visit Chicago's Reopening Businesses Portal.
If either state/local law or an employer requires employees to wear any safety equipment or other PPE in the workplace, such as face masks, the employer is responsible for paying for and providing this equipment. Additional safety requirements may also apply if your business is already subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Bloodborne Pathogens standards, OSHA regulations generally, or other federal, state, or local industry-specific requirements.
As mentioned above, if some individuals cannot wear masks/face coverings due to medical conditions and/or religious accommodations, employers should have discussions with these individuals about further accommodations that can be explored and/or can request to see any appropriate documentation that may be needed.
Employers can also require employees to wear additional safety equipment like face/eye protection, gowns, gloves, or other equipment suggested by OSHA, and should review the guidance published on OSHA’s website for recommended practices.
For more information, please visit the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) COVID-19 Resource Page, review the State of Illinois Coronavirus Response Page, explore the Face Coverings FAQs, and follow all safety guidance provided by OSHA, the CDC, and your state or local agencies.
As an employer, how can I handle an employee who cannot or refuses to follow company COVID-19 safety policies such as wearing a face mask/covering while at work?
Before taking any action, it’s important to engage with your employees to understand why they may be refusing to follow mandated safety policies. For example, an employee’s refusal to wear a face mask/covering while in the workplace due to a medical condition and/or based on a religious belief, may make them eligible for an exception to this requirement. If that’s the case, employers should have discussions with these individuals about further accommodations that can be explored and/or they can request to see any appropriate documentation that may be needed as evidence for this exception. Additional exceptions that may apply include, but are not limited to, if a mask impedes an employee’s ability to perform basic functions of their job and/or if the wearing of a mask creates a workplace hazard and/or safety concern.
If an employee simply refuses to follow their employer’s established and communicated safety policies, and does not have a situation where an employer is required to make an accommodation, such as the example described above, employers may take corrective action and either discipline and/or terminate any employee for their refusal to follow company policies, as long as the policies in question are not illegal and/or hazardous. However, employers should consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before making personnel or business decisions, such as terminations or imposing any other discipline based upon an employee’s actions, to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
Employers should also continue to adhere to all safety guidance as outlined by the CDC, OSHA, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and should continue to follow any legislation that requires the wearing of masks or face coverings in the workplace as outlined by any federal, state, and/or local authority.
As I bring back my workforce, what resources are available to assist me in understanding proper work conditions and regulations? Are there resources that define capacity limits and how offices should resume operations?
The Restore Illinois Plan is a phased approach to reopen the Illinois economy that was designed by the Office of Governor Pritzker and the IDPH. Throughout the five individual phases, Governor Pritzker and the IDPH have placed a heavy emphasis on safety and workplace cleanliness for businesses that are reopening. For more information on capacity limits for specific businesses, please review the Restore Illinois – Protecting Our Communities FAQs.
For more information on regulations/guidance for returning to work, please review the Business and Organization Guidance, visit the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) website, read the FAQs on the State of Illinois Coronavirus Response Page, and follow all workplace guidance as outlined by the CDC, OSHA, and your other state/local agencies. For resources specific to Chicago, click here.
Please also review the Paychex COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Checklist and explore our other resources outlined below:
- After the Pandemic: What’s Next for Your Employees
- Infectious Disease Outbreak Plan: Considerations for Employers Preparing for Coronavirus
- White House Issues Guidelines for Opening Up America Again during COVID-19 Pandemic
How do I properly conduct COVID-19 temperature testing in the workplace for employees?
Temperature testing/screening can be conducted on-site at businesses to determine if an individual has a fever. Based on CDC guidance, a fever is just one of many symptoms of COVID-19 and conducting temperature screenings may be a way to potentially protect your employees and business. However, a fever does not always indicate COVID-19 and some with COVID-19 never experience a fever. Therefore, it is one method to consider, but alone may not necessarily be the most effective way to protect a work environment. Temperature testing/screening may also put the employee(s)/individual(s) assigned to take temperatures at a higher risk of exposure, which can create additional concern(s). Other safety methods to consider may include more consistent deep cleaning of the workplace, the reorganizing of work spaces to ensure individuals are spaced six or more feet apart, implementing or continuing remote work capabilities, if applicable, and/or staggering your staff to work on specified days. CDC guidelines also allow for virtual health screenings to be conducted rather than in-person health checks. For more information on this, please review the CDC’s Resuming Business Toolkit, General Business FAQs, or visit their COVID-19 website.
Of note: the EEOC generally considers temperature testing/screening to be a “medical examination.” The agency’s guidance generally permits employers to measure employees’ body temperatures as a result of the CDC and state/local authorities acknowledging that COVID-19 is community spread. It is possible the EEOC may revise this guidance in the future.
Before conducting temperature testing/screening, consider consulting with an HR professional and/or your legal counsel to help you to ensure compliance with state and/or local law.
If an employer plans to implement in-person temperature screenings at their business after discussing their options with an HR professional or legal counsel, they should consider:
- Who will take temperatures and how that person will be protected from exposure,
- Where temperatures will be taken,
- When temperatures will be taken,
- How temperatures will be taken,
- How the temperature screening equipment will be sanitized,
- Where the information/readings will be recorded,
- If recording this information, how will it be recorded and confidentially maintained separate from the employees’ personnel files,
- What steps to take for a high temperature,
- What safety protocols will be put in place and how they will be communicated to the screener(s) and employees,
- Ensuring the time waiting for and undergoing the screening process is considered compensable time.
All temperature screenings should be administered based on legitimate and nondiscriminatory business needs and should be as non-invasive as possible. Employers should also consider whether a third-party vendor will be used to conduct such screenings. Employee results of such testing are considered medical information and should be kept in a confidential file and separated from an employee’s personnel file.
Any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home immediately and encouraged to seek appropriate medical attention. If an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, employers should advise other employees who could potentially have had contact with the infected employee about possible exposure to COVID-19. Employers may not, however, disclose the name of the affected employee and should take all possible steps to maintain confidentiality.
In addition, employers may:
- Ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- Request that employees notify them if they or a close family member tests positive for COVID-19.
- Inquire if employees have come into close contact with anyone that is known or suspected to have COVID-19.
- Inquire about employees’ personal travel plans, whether to other countries or within the U.S. (particularly regarding current “hot spots”).
An employer may not ask non-COVID-19-related medical questions, as these may impact an employee’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA and applicable state laws with respect to employee medical information.
Be sure to always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before asking employees’ specific medically-related questions to help you to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
For more information, please visit the IDPH COVID-19 Resource Page, read our WORX article on guidelines for opening up America, and follow all safety guidance provided by OSHA, the CDC, and your state and/or local agencies.
If COVID-19 is contracted after returning to work, is this covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance?
It depends. Workers' Compensation insurance protects employees from on-the-job injuries and illnesses, however, it doesn't usually cover diseases that are unrelated to employment. If an employee contracts COVID-19 at work or because of the nature of their work, such as if they’re a healthcare worker or emergency responder, then they may be provided coverage. Additionally, individuals with a confirmed case of COVID-19 may also be eligible for benefits under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act, however, each situation is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Some states have also proposed changes that would broaden these rules and/or provide additional coverage. Be sure to consult with an HR and/or insurance professional for more information or visit the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) website and review the Illinois Workers' Occupational Diseases Act.
What is the protocol for those who travel for work or have chosen to do so in their personal time and plan to return to work?
Employers can encourage their employees to limit any nonessential personal travel, especially to high-impact areas, however, they cannot prevent them from traveling outright.
Employers should also educate their employees on the current COVID-19-related risks that are associated with traveling. Some of these travel risks can include, but are not limited to, potential/greater risk of exposure to coronavirus, becoming stranded due to federal, state, and/or local travel restrictions or closures, and/or having to comply with potential mandatory quarantine protocols for individuals who have recently traveled to and/or returned from a high-risk location. Employers should also advocate that their employees follow all safety, hygiene, and social distancing guidance provided by the CDC.
Employers can require an employee to work from home and to monitor their health for symptoms of COVID-19 for a 14-day period if the employee has:
- Recently traveled to an international location on the current CDC widespread transmission list;
- Recently been on a cruise ship or traveled domestically by air to an area with widespread transmission;
- Recently traveled to a high-risk location within the US under a CDC travel advisory;
- Recently been in contact with an individual with a known diagnosis of COVID-19;
- Or is a resident covered by a state or local ordinance requiring physical office closures.
If an employee who has recently returned from international travel displays symptoms of COVID-19, then employers can and should enforce any federal and/or state-mandated quarantine measures, regardless of whether their travel was for personal or business reasons. The same would apply for those who may have traveled to high-risk areas within the U.S. Employers can also use the CDC’s Risk Assessment tool to help determine which individuals may be pose a risk to the workplace.
Employers should consider a policy about the above and communicate it to all employees in order to ensure awareness of the potential impact travel may have on their ability to return to the workplace. Before making business decisions that may alter your workplace, consider consulting with an HR professional and/or your legal counsel to help you ensure compliance with federal, state, and/or local law, and for the latest updates, refer to your state and/or local authorities.
What is classified as an essential and non-essential business in Illinois?
Some essential businesses include, but are not limited to, healthcare and public health operations, essential government functions, human services operations, financial intuitions, and essential infrastructure operations such as food production and distribution, basic utilities, transportation, and construction/building management.
For a full breakdown of essential businesses, please review the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Essential Businesses & Operations Checklist, explore the Restore Illinois Phase 4 – Recovery – FAQs For Businesses, and read the Restore Illinois Plan.
Is it required that all employees who are able to work from home continue to do so?
Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-32 required all employers to consider establishing remote work capabilities, if applicable, and highly encouraged those able to do so. It also required employers to post workplace safety guidance at their physical work-sites if they still had employees working out of their principle location. Although remote work is still highly encouraged, it is not required by Illinois law.
In accordance with the phased Restore Illinois Plan, certain employees can return to their employer’s physical work location, however, they’re required to wear a face mask/covering while working, if unable to practice social distancing.
If a business continues allowing employees to work remotely, Illinois law requires that employers reimburse for certain expenses, such as a portion of an employee’s home internet and cell phone costs, for example. As such, employers should consider creating and/or updating policies related to remote working that include reimbursement scope and procedures.
What are some guidelines for rehiring employees who were laid off due to COVID-19? What paperwork/documentation is required? What are some additional items to consider when rehiring employees?
Establishing and applying fact-based criteria that are consistent with your legitimate business needs and documenting the reasons for your decisions are important considerations when returning employees to work. Employers should also remember to review the requirements in any written employment agreements, or collective bargaining agreement if they employ unionized employees, to make sure that they’re remaining in compliance.
Employment decisions cannot be based on reasons that violate federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws including, but not limited to, an employee’s membership in a protected class, because an employee has exercised their right to file a complaint against the company (e.g., complaints of unlawful discrimination or harassment), an employee has taken leave that is protected under federal, state, or local law, or because the employer believes that an employee will request leave when called back to work, including Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) or Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFML). If you have questions about these laws, or your hiring process, consult with your legal counsel and/or HR professional.
Employers should also consider issuing return to work letters that:
- Address if employees will be recalled/rehired into the same position.
- Confirms pay rates for returning employees. Note: Employers receiving loans under the CARES Act and seeking loan forgiveness for payroll costs have certain obligations to restore and maintain compensation and benefits levels.
Additionally, if organizational structure has changed, employers may also consider determining the skills of individuals and appropriate positions to offer when returning their employees to work.
- Providing a new Form W-4 in case employees want to make changes upon returning to work.
- Ensuring “new hire” employee documents (i.e. current employee handbook, emergency contact information, etc.) are properly updated and executed.
- Determining implications for 401(k), 403(b), and pension plans.
- Evaluating executive compensation and severance arrangements.
Where can I find return to work information, safety guidelines, and regulatory updates?
As multiple states begin resuming business operations, Paychex remains dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. That’s why we’ve developed several online resources to help you remain up to date on your state's ever-evolving policies and executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and return to work protocols.
Paychex Safety/Legal Resources:
- COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Checklist
- Business Preparedness After COVID-19
- After the Pandemic: What’s Next for Your Employees WORX article
- Infectious Disease Outbreak Plan: Considerations for Employers WORX article
- White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again during COVID-19 Pandemic WORX article
- Coronavirus at Work: Frequently Asked Questions WORX article
- Preventing and Managing Illness in the Workplace WORX article
- Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) COVID-19 Resource Page
- State of Illinois Coronavirus Response Page
- Restore Illinois Plan
- Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) Resource Page
- City of Chicago Reopening Businesses Portal