Covid

Next Phase of Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act

December 15, 2020

The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act provides paid leave to Colorado employees. Here is what to know about the next phase of the act.

Photo of a young hand holding an older hand, which is wearing a watch.

During a pandemic, employees may be acutely aware of the need for time off.  More specifically, they are needing paid time off to care for themselves or family members afflicted by illness.  With this in mind, the state of Colorado is working hard to take care of its workers.  Hence, the state rolled out the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), providing paid sick leave to employees for COVID-related reasons.  The first phase, providing up to 80 hours specifically for COVID-19 matters, pertained to the period of July 15, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  The next phase, which goes into effect on January 1, 2021, has some notable distinctions from the first phase.

While the act’s verbiage uses the phrase “paid sick leave,” it is covers more than just illness for employees.  Here is a look at ways an employee may qualify for HFWA, who the act covers, and how the hours accrue.

What are the HFWA details?

While the previous phase of the HFWA applied to all Colorado employers regardless of size, the update to the act applies to employers with more than 15 employees.  It’s worthy to note that this act does not apply to employees of the federal government.

Importantly, on January 1, 2022, employers with 15 or fewer employees will also be required to abide by this new piece of legislation.

Who qualifies for this phase of the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act?

Salary and hourly workers alike are eligible to qualify for HFWA.  Furthermore, HFWA extends to all full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers. 

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What is covered?

The HFWA covers the following are situations:

  • Employee illness (mental or physical) / injury / health condition, or seeking diagnosis
  • The employee caring for another person due to the aforementioned issues
  • The employee helping another person obtain services for a health-related issue
  • Public health emergencies

While acts such as FMLA allow employees leave to care for family members, this act differs in that it refers to “someone else” instead of “family.”  As you can see, the act covers more than just situations surrounding an employee’s personal health issues.  Rather, the updated legislations broadens to encompass those close to the employee.  Employers can find a detailed explanation of each situation for employee coverage here.

How does HFWA accrue?

Employees accrue 1 HFWA hour for every 30 hours worked.  This is the equivalent of six eight-hour workdays.

While hourly employee accruals are fairly straightforward, salary hours will be calculated assuming employees work a 40-hour workweek. 

Accruals are capped, so employees may not accrue or use more than 48 hours per year.  However, employers may establish a higher limit, if they feel it necessary.

HFWA is the Law

Businesses are operating in an unprecedented way lately, and sometimes it’s hard to keep straight all the changes to legislature.  Still, employers who are mindful of employee needs will pay special attention to this act.  If employers deny employees to use their paid leave for a covered situation, they will be in violation of the law and are subject to penalty.  Employers should also avoid retaliating against employees for using HFWA hours.

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Therefore, remember that this act is effective on the first day of 2021.  Furthermore, it will apply to all Colorado employers (aside from the federal government) with 16 or more employees.  Notably, the accrual rate is 1 HFWA hour for every 30 hours an employee works.  Finally, starting at the beginning of 2022, this act will also apply to employers with fewer than 16 employees.

Image of pills, a stethoscope, banded 100 dollar bills, and the words PAID SICK LEAVE, referring to the HFWA.


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