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What is a Fair Wage?

December 15, 2022

Some jobs in certain areas pay more. When there are fewer workers available, employers offer a higher wage to entice motivated workers to join their company. Wages are lower when there is an abundance of qualified workers available. Jobs that require more skills and talents offer a higher wage. With that said, a fair wage should adequately match the job being performed. However, something considered fair in one job may not be in another.

Read on to learn more about the different types of fair wages. 

Minimum Wage

A minimum wage is the lowest possible wage you can legally be paid as an employee. Minimum wage is usually fair for unskilled work such as entry-level jobs in the service industry. Here are some points* to keep in mind:

  • Minimum wage in Illinois is $12.00 per hour for workers 18-years of age and older.1
    • On January 1st, 2023, the minimum wage will be increased to $13.00 per hour.

    • Workers under 18-years-old can be paid $10.50 per hour (on January 1st, 2023).

  • Overtime rate applies if you work more than 40-hours in one week. However, some employees are exempt from paid overtime. You can find a list of them on the Department of Labor's Minimum Wage/Overtime FAQ.
  • Overtime is paid "time and a half" per hour, meaning you are paid your normal rate plus half your rate every hour. For example: 12.00 (rate) + 6.00 (half) = 18.00
  • Tipped employees minimum wage will be $7.80 per hour as of January 1st, 2023.

*The above points apply to employers with four or more employees.

Living Wage

Living wage is different from minimum wage.3 A living wage is the amount of money it takes to meet basic needs without depending upon government assistance to survive. Unfortunately, a living wage isn't a given for all jobs. When searching for a job, check to see if it is considered an in-demand occupation to help you earn a fair living wage or more.

The current living wage in Illinois depends on your county, as well as your household size and living situation. To find your living wage, use MIT's Living Wage Calculator for Illinois.

Below is a table showing what a Customer Service Representative may earn in different areas in Illinois. If you're trying to find a good wage, check out Career, Wages & Trends to learn more.

Peoria – Bloomington$10.52$12.80$17.93
Cook County$12.99$16.66$22.54
Mt. Vernon – Carbondale$9.61$11.42$14.58
Edwardsville Area$11.32$14.10$18.10
Springfield Area$10.68$13.94$17.86

Fair Labor

Fair wages go hand in hand with fair labor. For example:

  • In most cases, you cannot be scheduled to work seven days in a row; your employer must give you at minimum one day off per week, which is a minimum of 24-hours of rest.2
  • Workers scheduled for 7.5 continuous hours are entitled to an unpaid meal period of at least 20-minutes. The meal period must occur no later than five hours into the shift.2
  • Illinois law does not require other breaks. Breaks shorter than 20 minutes are normally paid.

For workers under 16-years of age, child labor laws also apply. In Illinois, these workers:4

  • Must have a certificate that confirms they are old enough to work, able to do the job physically, and that their work won't conflict with their education.
  • Cannot work in hazardous jobs.
  • Can normally only work between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M.; however, from June 1st to Labor Day the hours are extended to 7 A.M. – 9 P.M.
  • Cannot work more than 8-hours on non-school days or more than 3-hours on school days.
  • Cannot work more than 24-hours during school weeks or more than 48-hours during non-school weeks.
  • Cannot work more than six days a week.

For more information on fair wages, read about the Fair Labor Standards Division.

One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA) Requirements

Employees and employers should be aware of the updates for the One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA) that takes effect January 1st, 2023. This act "gives workers the right to a day of rest every workweek and breaks for meals or rest during daily work shifts". Changes to ODRISA under Public Act 102-0828 and Public Act 102-1012 taking effect on January 1st include: 

  • New meal and rest break requirements: Requires employees be given a 20-minute break if working a 12-hour shift or longer, and at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every consecutive 7-day period, clarifying the day of rest requirements for workers whose schedules don't align with a Sunday to Saturday calendar week. 
  • Notice posting requirements: All employers covered by ODRISA must post a notice at the workplace notifying employees of their rights under the Act. IDOL will provide this notice on its website for employers to download and post. 

Employers can learn more with the Illinois Department of Labor's (IDOL) press release, this one page handout with the amendments to ODRISA, and the Required Posters & Disclosures that are required for all Illinois employers.

1 https://labor.illinois.gov/laws-rules/fls/minimum-wage-law.html

2 https://labor.illinois.gov/laws-rules/fls/odrisa.html

3 https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/17/locations


*Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.