On July 8, 2021, Colorado ended the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency. However, Colorado employers must continue to provide COVID-19 sick per the federal order, which was renewed on July 19.

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What is PHEL?

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) was implemented in 2021 under the Colorado Families & Workplaces Act (HFWA). PHEL requires Colorado employers – regardless of size – to provide paid leave for qualifying absences during a declared public health emergency. This sick pay mandate expires 4 weeks following the end of the emergency public health order.

Colorado’s public health emergency ended July 8. Why must employers still provide COVID-19 sick pay?

This is where things get confusing. Colorado’s state law requires PHEL during a local, state, or federal public health emergency. Since we are still under a federal public health order, Colorado employers must continue paying PHEL.

As our friend and employment law attorney Michael Santo further explained:

“Under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, on the date a public health emergency is declared, all employers must make 80 hours of paid sick leave available to employees for purposes related to the public health emergency. This mandate extends through the duration of the public health emergency declaration, plus an additional four weeks after the public health emergency has been suspended or ended . . . [T]he statute defines ‘Public Health Emergency’ as a declaration by a ‘state, federal, or local health agency.’

So, while it is true that Governor Polis, as of July 8th, 2021, ended the health emergency declaration, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) has an active ‘Determination That a Public Health Emergency Exists’ [that it renewed on July 19th] . . . [E]mployers may be obligated to continue providing leave under PHEL for some time.

. . . Governor Polis’ declaration is only one part of a larger picture when we are talking about PHEL. Further, local authorities may also extend employer’s obligations under PHEL, so stay tuned to your local news outlets and watch for any relevant activity. And don’t forget, employers are obligated to continue to provide PHEL for four weeks after the expiration of the last federal, state,