Because the federal government has once again extended the public health emergency declaration related to COVID-19, Colorado employers must continue to provide paid leave for the COVID-19-related circumstances identified in Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (“the HFWA”).
Under the HFWA, employers are obligated to continue to provide paid sick leave for COVID-19 related matters (“Public Health Emergency Leave” or “PHE”) until four weeks after the official termination/suspension date of the federal public health emergency as declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS further extended the public health declaration through at least until January 11, 2023, unless another extension is granted, which means that leave under the PHE is still in effect.
Amount of Leave
Employees are allowed up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to care for themselves or family members due to a COVID-related illness. Employees may use these hours consecutively or intermittently. If used intermittently, the balance of the 80 hours may be used for a future occurrence. For example, if an employee used 40 hours of leave in 2021, they have 40 hours remaining until the end of the public health emergency period.
Use of PHE
PHE can be used for a range of COVID-related needs, including, but not limited to:
- Illness with COVID symptoms;
- Quarantining or isolating due to COVID exposure;
- COVID testing;
- Vaccination and side effects;
- Inability to work due to health conditions that may increase susceptibility or risk of COVID; or
- COVID-related needs of family (illness, school closure, etc.).
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should continue to provide paid sick leave for COVID-19 related matters and should review the most current guidance from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) in response to any updates that may be issued as a result of HHS further extending the public health emergency.
As a reminder, employers cannot require documentation from employees to show that leave is for COVID-related needs. As such, employers should review their current policy and ensure any language related to documentation for leave is consistent with what is permitted under PHE.
HR Works will continue to monitor this topic and provide updated information as needed.