Colorado families expecting a new child in 2023 have another reason to be excited.
The state’s new Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (FAMLI) won’t start paying benefits until 2024. But because new parents are eligible for paid leave anytime within the first 12 months after a birth, adoption or foster care placement, those parents may have some weeks of eligibility for a child who arrives in 2023.
Future FAMLI benefits aren’t dependent on any earlier benefits already taken before FAMLI benefits become available. So if a parent takes any time off in 2023 (paid or unpaid) to care for a new child, that doesn’t affect the parent’s eligibility for paid FAMLI benefits in 2024. In other words, a parent could take work-sponsored or unpaid bonding leave in 2023 and then take another bonding leave in 2024, as long as the leave is completed within 12 months of the child’s birth or addition to their family.
Let’s break that down.
Say a Colorado parent welcomes a new child in July of 2023. That parent may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid federal family leave during 2023, depending on the size of the employer. In January of 2024, Colorado’s FAMLI benefits begin. That same parent would be eligible for another 12 weeks of paid time off because it has been less than 12 full months since the child’s arrival. Parents won’t be penalized or lose out on FAMLI-funded leave in 2024 just because they took bonding leave in 2023.
One important thing to note: Colorado’s FAMLI Act was written to give local government employers the option to completely opt out of the program. If you work for a local government employer who has voted to opt out of FAMLI, you still have the option of voluntarily opting in by committing to pay premiums on 0.45% of your wages for three years. However, while employees of opted out local governments still have access to FAMLI benefit payments, your local government employer is not obligated to abide by the job protection and anti-retaliation provisions of section 509 of the FAMLI Act. So while the FAMLI Act would entitle employees of opted out local governments to take leave in 2024 regardless of what leave they might have used in 2023, the law won't protect those employees from termination or other discipline from the opted out local government employer. If you work for an opted out local government employer, please connect with your human resources department to confirm what their particular leave policies are.
Here’s some other basics new parents need to know about FAMLI-covered bonding leave:
- Partial pay replacement is available for up to 12 weeks. To see how much you’d take home during FAMLI-covered leave, check out our calculator here
- Both mothers and fathers are eligible for FAMLI-covered bonding leave, and they do not have to take the weeks concurrently.
- Employers are entitled to 30 days’ notice before a parent begins bonding leave (assuming the child’s arrival was foreseeable more than 30 days in advance). Read more about Colorado’s FAMLI notification requirements here
- Colorado’s FAMLI law is not the same as the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law that requires large employers to offer unpaid time off for life events including the birth of a child. Three key differences between FAMLI and FMLA are:
- FAMLI is paid leave. FMLA is unpaid, job-protected leave.
- FAMLI benefits are individually portable and are determined by length of time employed in Colorado, not by length of time with the same employer.
- Employees working for a business of any size are eligible for FAMLI. Self Employed workers are also eligible to opt into the program voluntarily. FMLA is available to employees of covered employers only.
You can read more details about your employer’s responsibilities under FAMLI and FMLA here.
Colorado voters approved FAMLI back in 2020 with the passing of Prop 118, indicating that the benefits of parental bonding leave is important to Colorado workers. Paid bonding leave has been proven to improve the health of babies and their families and to keep both moms and dads in the workforce.
In other states with paid family-leave laws, bonding with a new child is the most common reason people take paid leave from work.
The FAMLI Division at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is here to answer all your questions about bonding leave. Drop us a line at email@example.com or give us a call Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. at 1-866-CO-FAMLI (1-866-263-2654) to ask your questions.