COVID-19 and Colorado Paid Sick Leave: What You Need to Know

Some businesses in Colorado will need to provide workers with up to 4 days of paid sick leave if they have flu-like symptoms and are being tested for the coronavirus, or are under instructions from a healthcare provider to quarantine.

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What employers in the Centennial State need to know about the recently updated Colorado HELP rules

Here's what you need to know about COVID-19 and Colorado paid sick leave: what you need to know:

  • Certain Colorado employers are under a temporary mandate to provide limited paid sick leave under Colorado HELP rules
  • The rules give limited paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for COVID-19 or who are under instructions from a healthcare provider to quarantine
  • Some of the industries that must comply include leisure and hospitality, retail stores that sell groceries, and food and beverage manufacturing
  • The requirement will likely be in place as long as the state of emergency is in place

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Colorado was among the first states to develop a limited paid sick leave policy known as the Colorado HELP program. The program’s design provided short-term sick leave for those who:

  • Tested positive for COVID-19
  • Had symptoms
  • Quarantined as instructed by their healthcare provider

Providing the best solutions for employees has always been Colorado’s focus. To date, it remains one of the leading states for:

  • Employment laws
  • Fair and equitable compensation
  • Employee leave and benefits

Although the initial emergency response programs have ended, Colorado isn’t leaving its employees unsupported moving forward.

The Colorado COVID Website and Other Resources

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) and the State of Emergency Operations Center have combined their efforts to create Colorado’s COVID-19 website. This site provides information about:

  • Vaccines and healthcare
  • COVID cases in the state
  • Statistics
  • A wealth of resources for consumers and employers alike

They have links for public health, executive orders, and best practices for businesses to help companies thrive despite the ongoing risk of COVID and its variants.

All public health orders are currently related to reporting requirements for hospitals, assisted living residences, group homes, and other care facilities. There are no public health orders related to COVID, various outbreaks or strains, sick leave associated with COVID, or anything else.

Colorado Paid Sick Leave for PHE

Instead of eliminating the emergency sick leave, Colorado incorporated the language into their Healthy Family and Workplaces Act. This regulation requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave under specific guidelines and circumstances.

The law requires employers to provide all employees with up to 80 hours (less for part-time employees) of paid leave related to public health emergencies, referred to as PHE leave. The Act was updated on January 8, 2023, and will continue to be updated in the future.

The January 2023 update stated:

  • The only protected conditions were related to or associated with COVID
  • Former coverage for cases of flu, RSV, and other illnesses is no longer available
  • PHE is available for several needs, not just confirmed cases of illness, including:
    • Presenting symptoms
    • Quarantining
    • Testing or vaccination and side effects
    • Inability to work due to existing health conditions that can exacerbate COVID
    • A need to care for family members

Furthermore, employers cannot require employees to produce documentation for this type of leave. This leave will continue for the foreseeable future until four weeks after the PHE declarations are suspended or the public health crisis ends.

The language currently states that the PHE leave requirement will remain until May 2023, but that may be extended based on what happens in the first half of the year.

State-Mandated Sick Leave

In addition to PHE, Colorado joined the growing list of states now mandating paid sick leave for all employees in 2021. The permanent requirement includes one hour of paid leave per 30 hours worked, giving employees up to 48 hours per year.

Employees can use accrued sick leave for any variety of needs related to health and safety. It is not restricted to being sick or seeking healthcare services for an illness. Absences that are considered to be covered leave include those used for:

  • Any mental or physical illness, ailment, or health condition that prevents a person from working or the diagnosis, treatment, and care of any such situation.
  • Preventive care
  • Healthcare and support needs related to domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, or harassment.
  • The need to care for family members dealing with the above conditions or needs.

Employers who do not provide this leave could be subject to financial penalties. These include the repayment of any sick leave not granted and other civil or criminal fines.

Existing PTO and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs)

Paid leave that is part of a PTO policy or Collective Bargaining Agreement can satisfy these requirements by covering the same conditions, needs, pay rates, and other details. They also cannot demand documentation, notice, or requirements outside of what the Colorado HFWA requires. Colorado Wage Protection rules are also in place.

To stay updated with the Colorado sick leave laws and PHE requirements, check back with Zenefits or contact our advisors for more information.

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