Just like there is more than one reason to need to step away from the office, Colorado has different laws governing employee leave and sick time.
Making sense of it all gets complicated. Starting August 7, 2023, Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) expands to give Colorado employees more access to use accrued paid sick leave.
So what’s the difference between HFWA and the Colorado Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program, which will offer up to 12 weeks of wage replacement to care for one’s own medical condition or that of a loved one? How do the two programs work together, and what does the HFWA expansion mean for FAMLI?
Let’s break it down.
HFWA was passed by state lawmakers in 2020. It requires all employers to provide one hour of accrued, paid leave per 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year.
Enacted during the height of the pandemic, HFWA also required employers of all sizes to offer paid sick leave during a public health emergency. That portion of the law expired in June of 2023, soon after the end of the nationwide public health emergency.
But starting Aug. 7, HFWA adds three new events that will trigger Colorado employers to allow their employees to use accrued sick leave:
- grieving or attending the funeral or memorial service after the death of a family member
- caring for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed because of inclement weather
- evacuating their residence because of inclement weather or loss of power or water
There are some key differences between HFWA and FAMLI. Here are some takeaways to help keep them straight:
- HFWA requires employers to pay a worker’s entire wage for every eligible hour taken. FAMLI provides for partial pay replacement, based on a sliding scale. Use this handy calculator to estimate how much you’d get if you took leave under FAMLI.
- FAMLI does not offer paid absence for grief, or for inclement weather or an evacuation.
- FAMLI is an insurance fund financed partly by employees, partly by employers, with benefits coming from the State. So when a Colorado employee steps away from the office for FAMLI leave, their employer does not owe them wages. Employees will have to apply for benefits directly with the FAMLI Division, who will pay the employee their partial wage replacement benefits if their claim is approved. Sick leave covered by HFWA, on the other hand, is an employer’s responsibility. Employers will pay their employees directly for sick leave under HFWA.
- Coloradans who want to use FAMLI benefits for a medical condition need to get verification from a health care provider about the serious health condition. Sick leave covered by HFWA doesn't require a doctor’s note and can be used for minor illnesses.
- An employee is not entitled to receive both FAMLI and HFWA paid sick leave for the same hours absent. However, an employer and an employee can mutually agree that the employee may use any accrued paid sick leave as a supplement to FAMLI payments, as long as the two payments together don’t exceed the employee’s wages while working.
Want more details about how FAMLI works with other employee absences, not just HFWA but also short-term disability and other types of leave? You can get the full policy here.
Or if you have a particular question and want individualized assistance, call us weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at 1-866-CO-FAMLI (1-866-263-2654).