Paid Sick Leave under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA)


The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) requires Colorado employers to provide two types of paid sick leave to their employees: public health emergency (PHE) leave and accrued leave. The following points apply to both PHE and accrued leave.

  • Leave must be paid for time on leave, and at the same pay rate the employee earns during time worked.
  • Leave can’t be counted against employees as absences that may lead to firing or other negative action.

COVID Public Health Emergency (PHE) Leave Requirement Ends June 8, 2023

(Update: end of PHE on May 11, 2023) PHE Leave is in Effect Until June 8, 2023, four weeks after COVID-19 Public Health Emergencies ended.

On May 11, 2023, the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 PHE expired, following the expiration of Colorado’s COVID-19 Disaster Recovery Order on April 27, 2023.  But HFWA PHE leave continues until four weeks after all applicable PHE declarations end or are suspended.  With all applicable PHEs ending as of May 11, 2023, Colorado employees with remaining COVID-related PHE leave may still take PHE leave through June 8, 2023

In addition to “accrued paid sick leave” (addressed below), all Colorado employers, regardless of size or industry, must provide employees with public health emergency (“PHE”) leave (two weeks — 80 hours, or less for part-time employees). Colorado’s 80-hour PHE leave continues until four weeks after the end of all applicable federal, state, and local public health emergencies.

PHE leave is usable for a range of PHE-related needs, not just for confirmed cases. PHE-related needs include:

  • Symptoms of COVID, such as fever or chills, cough, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose
  • Quarantining or isolating due to exposure
  • Testing for COVID
  • Vaccination and its side effects
  • Inability to work due to health conditions that may increase susceptibility or risk of COVID
  • Needs to care for family (illness, school closure, etc.)

Employers cannot require documentation from employees to show that leave is for PHE-related needs. 

Accrued Paid Sick Leave

Employers are also required to provide one hour of paid leave per 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. This requirement took effect January 1, 2021, and is permanently in effect, not just during the COVID emergency.

Accrued leave is usable for a wide range of health and safety needs, not just COVID-related: Needs include:

  • Any mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents work; 
  • Diagnosis, care, or treatment of such conditions;
  • Preventive care (including vaccination);
  • Needs due to suffering domestic violence, sexual abuse, or criminal harassment; or caring for family with such conditions or needs.

Starting January 1, 2022, small and large employers alike have the same accrued leave responsibilities. In 2021, employers with 15 or fewer employees had to provide emergency leave, but were exempt from accrued leave until the end of 2021. 

Employers can require documentation for accrued paid sick leave (not for COVID-related public health emergency (PHE) leave), but only for absences of four or more consecutive days — and employees can provide the documentation after the leave ends.

PTO Policies and CBAs

Paid leave in a PTO policy, or a Collective Bargaining Agreement, can satisfy HFWA, if it covers all the same conditions or needs, at the same pay rate, and with no tougher requirements (documentation, notice, etc.) than HFWA (see Colorado Wage Protection Rules, specifically Rules 3.5.4 and 3.5.8).

For more detailed information please see the “References” section below.



Business and COVID: Where do we go from here? (3/10/22)

CDLE Webinar: DLSS Paid Sick Leave (2/25/21) 

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