Illinois to expand Family Bereavement Act benefits in 2023

Illinois businesses will soon be required to expand child bereavement leave to cover pregnancy loss, failed adoptions, unsuccessful reproductive procedures, and other diagnoses or events impacting pregnancy and fertility.

The expanded Family Bereavement Act, which also mandates leave after the loss of family members previously not covered, was signed recently by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

It was proposed and written by a 16-year-old girl whose family had experienced such a loss. 

Kyra Jagodzinski, a volunteer for Illinois State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said in a news release following the bill’s signing:

“Over my life, I watched as my parents struggled with the loss of family, and saw people close to me struggle with fertility challenges and pregnancy loss. As a 17-year-old, I did my best to comfort them but found a system that left them without support.”

“The act provides Illinois residents with time to grieve the loss of immediate family members and to-be family members,” she said. “I am grateful to have worked with a leader in our legislature, Sen. Melinda Bush, attorney Ashley Stead, Gov. Pritzker, and the Illinois Legislature to support our communities in their time of need.”

“Illinoisans should have time to mourn and heal after an unimaginable loss like a miscarriage or stillbirth,” Mr. Pritzker said. “There are no words to erase such immense grief, but today, we take action to ensure that our residents are given the support and grace they deserve. This bill would not have been possible without the advocacy of one of Sen. Bush’s dedicated volunteers, Kyra Jagodzinski. Illinois is a better, more compassionate state because of your hard work.”

The original Child Bereavement Leave Act, which was signed into law in 2016, allowed parents and guardians to take leave in the case of the loss of a biological or adopted child, a foster placement, or a stepchild. The amended act addresses the immense grief parents feel during pregnancy loss and failed adoptions, both of which are often under-recognized as traumatic events requiring time for recuperation and healing, the news release from Mr. Prtizker’s office said.

The act also requires employers to provide 10 days of leave to employees attending the funeral of a covered family member, making arrangements necessitated by the death of a covered family member, or grieving the death of a covered family member. The bill expands the definition of a covered family member to include children, stepchildren, spouses, domestic partners, siblings, parents, parents-in-law, grandchildren, grandparents, or stepparents.

These provisions ensure employees across the state can take time to grieve before returning to work without fear of termination, the news release said. The act also specifies that the employee does not have to identify which category of event they are taking leave for, even if they are required to provide documentation. The Department of Labor will provide forms for health care practitioners to verify the leave-inciting event without violating patient privacy.

The Support Through Loss Act requires employers in the state to provide for two weeks of unpaid leave for employees who experience a miscarriage, an unsuccessful round of intrauterine insemination or other assisted reproductive procedure, a failed or non-finalized adoption match, a failed surrogacy agreement, a diagnosis affecting fertility, or a stillbirth. Employees can also utilize this time off to support a spouse or partner experiencing one of these losses.

“The emotional anguish suffered after a miscarriage or stillbirth is often debilitating,” Ms. Bush said. “Returning to work sooner than they’d like leaves little room for grief, mourning and healing. I am proud to have passed this law alongside the help of a passionate, young teen who saw the need for change and pushed to make it happen.”

“Expanding bereavement leave to cover miscarriages, failed IVF procedures, failed adoptions, failed surrogacy agreements, the loss of a close family member and other similar losses is a vital step towards equality in Illinois,” added State Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin. 

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