Effective January 1, 2022, all Colorado employers — regardless of size — are required to provide employees with General Paid Sick Leave (PSL) and Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) per the Colorado Healthy Families & Workplaces Act (HFWA).

In 2021, PSL only applied to employers with 16 or more workers. However, PHEL, aka “80-Hour COVID Leave,” applied to all Colorado employers in 2021 and continues into 2022. PHEL for COVID-related leave is in effect until four weeks following the end of a federal, state or local public health order. Payroll tax credits for qualifying COVID-19 sick pay per FFCRA / ARPA ended September 30, 2021 and are not available in 2022.

HFWA leave must be paid at the same hourly rate or salary and with the same benefits the employee normally earns during hours worked.

If your policies already comply with HFWA, or offer more sick leave or PTO than what’s required, great! Just be certain your policy meets the HFWA availability and use requirements.

Quick Overview of CO HFWA Paid Leave Requirements Effective Jan. 1, 2022

All Colorado employers, regardless of size, are required to provide the following HFWA paid leave to all employees:

General Paid Sick Leave (PSL)

  • Up to 48 hours per calendar year for qualifying absences
  • Employers can use an accrual method of tracking or provide a lump sum at the beginning of each year
  • Unused PSL hours roll over into the following year, but employers may limit use to 48 hours/year
  • Employers are not required to payout PSL upon termination, unless sick and vacation hours are tracked under one PTO policy
  • If you are an ASAP payroll client, ask your account manager about receiving a copy of our Sick Leave Policy template (one-time fee)

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

  • All employees receive up to 80 hours of paid leave related to a public health emergency
  • Currently, PHEL is in effect for COVID-19 absences, including those related to the vaccine
    • Colorado’s “80-Hour COVID Leave” mandate was effective Jan. 1, 2021, and remains in effect until 4 weeks following the end of a federal, state, or local public health order. As of Dec. 2021, PHEL will continue through mid-February 2022, and will likely be extended per federal public health orders.

HFWA Paid Leave Uses

There are certain criteria for how HFWA time is used or approved for use. If you are already satisfying the accrual of time portion of the Act, also be certain that your current policy allows for the following uses of the time:

  1. Having a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents employee from working;
  2. Needing to get preventative medical care, or to get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment, of any mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
  3. Needing to care for a family member who has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or who needs the type of care listed in #2;
  4. The employee or a family member having been a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or criminal harassment, and needing leave for related medical attention, mental health care or other counseling, victim services (including legal services), or relocation; or
  5. Due to a public health emergency, a public official having closed either the employee’s place of business, or the school or place of care of the employee’s child, requiring the employee needing to be absent from work to care for the child.

All HFWA leave must be paid at the same hourly rate or salary, and with the same benefits the employee normally earns during hours worked. The rate must be at least the applicable minimum wage, but need not include overtime, bonuses, or holiday pay.

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

During a public health emergency, up to 80 hours must be provided (or, for an employee working under 40 hours per week, two weeks of their regular hours). PHEL applies to all Colorado employers, regardless of size.

In 2021, PHEL went into effect per Federal and State COVID-19 public health emergency orders. PHEL remains available until four weeks following the end of the public health emergency*.

*Unless extended again, which is likely, the Federal public health emergency will end January 16, 2022, or when the US Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services declares that a public health emergency no longer exists.

Employer Policies

As you formulate your organization’s policies for HFWA, please keep the following in mind:

  • Documentation can be required only if leave is “four or more consecutive workdays”
  • Only reasonable documentation can be required, not more than needed to show a valid reason for leave
  • You cannot require “details” about the employee’s (or their family’s) HFWA-related health or safety information; any such information you receive must be kept confidential and stored in a separate file
  • Documentation “is not required to take paid sick leave,” but it can be required as soon as the employee reasonably can provide it (reasonable documentation can be required)
  • Unused HFWA leave rolls over year-to-year, but does not require more than 48 hours leave in a year

HFWA Paid Leave Payout

Employers are not required to pay out an employee’s unused sick leave when an employee separates from employment. However, if your PTO policy tracks paid vacation and sick pay together, you may have to pay out unused PSL. If an employee is rehired within six months, they are entitled to have their previously accrued sick leave hours reinstated unless it was paid out.

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