(DENVER) – Most Colorado workers are going to see some changes on their paychecks next year as the state rolls out the voter-approved paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program to expand access to paid family leave.
On Jan. 1, Colorado employers and employees will both start contributing to the new FAMLI program. Using simple payroll deductions, employers and employees will contribute to the fund that will eventually provide Coloradans wage replacement benefits during life circumstances that pull them away from their jobs. While payroll deductions begin in 2023, FAMLI benefit payments will be available to workers starting in January 2024. This first year of deductions will allow time for the fund to build to support qualified employee leaves beginning in January of 2024.
Colorado voters decided in 2020 to join seven other states and the District of Columbia to ensure more workers have access to paid leave during life circumstances that pull them away from their jobs — like a new child, taking care of a loved one with a serious health condition, or preparing for a loved one’s military deployment. Since the 2020 election, three additional states have also begun implementing their own statewide paid leave programs.
“Colorado voters gave us clear direction that paid family and medical leave is a benefit workers want,” said Tracy Marshall, Director of the new FAMLI Division in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “We’ve been working hard to make that happen with a program that gives employers of all sizes an easy, one-stop shop to comply with the law. I think we’ve built a user-friendly family-leave platform, backed by a team of customer support professionals ready to make sure no businesses get left behind.”
A 2021 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in two states that have adopted paid family leave, small businesses are overwhelmingly supportive of the programs.
"Colorado small business owners and self-employed applicants are looking forward to the launch of the Colorado FAMLI program, which will allow employers to offer access to a benefit that is important to supporting their workforce," said Lindsey Vigoda, Colorado Director for Small Business Majority. "We know that many small businesses want to offer paid family and medical leave but simply can't afford to do so on their own. The new FAMLI program will help close this gap for small businesses while providing access to critical financial support for Coloradans – a win-win for businesses and employees alike."
Colorado’s FAMLI program will start providing benefits to eligible workers starting in 2024. Here’s how it works, what is required by the new voter-approved law, and who is eligible:
- Employers are required to notify employees of payroll deductions by posting the Required Program Notice by Jan. 1, 2023.
- While premium deductions begin in January, the first payment employers need to make to CDLE isn’t due until April 30, 2023. (A 30-day grace period will be offered before the first payment is considered late).
- Employers, and the third-party administrators who serve them, will be able register on FAMLI.colorado.gov once the new My FAMLI+ Employer portal launches in the coming weeks. Employers must register before the first quarterly premium payment is due.
- Employers and their employees both fund the FAMLI program, with employers paying at least 50% of the cost. Premiums are set to 0.9% of the employee’s wage, with 0.45% paid by the employer and 0.45% paid by the employee. Premiums may be adjusted in future years but are capped by law at 1.2%.
- Small employers with 9 or fewer employees aren’t required to cover the employer share of premiums and are only responsible for deducting and remitting the 0.45% employee share to the FAMLI Division once a quarter.
- Eligible workers can get up to 12 weeks of payments (or 16 weeks in case of certain childbirth complications) on a sliding scale based on earnings, with lower wage earners receiving up to 90% of their wages. Workers can take FAMLI leave continuously, intermittently, or in the form of a reduced work schedule.
- Self-employed workers and independent contractors can access paid family leave if they agree to pay FAMLI 0.45% of their wages for three years. These individuals will be able to self-elect coverage when benefits become available in 2024.
- Local governments (such as cities and counties) have the option to vote to opt out of the program. Just like independent contractors, employees of these local governments can still access paid leave as long as they agree to pay their share (0.45% of their wages) for three years.
- Private employers of any size can apply to use a private insurance plan that offers the same or greater benefits and protections as the state-run FAMLI plan. Private plans must get approval from the FAMLI Division. This application process is set to open in early 2023. All employers will be responsible for paying their premiums until their private plans are approved. Employers who receive approval for private plans that have an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024, or earlier will be eligible for a refund for any premiums paid in 2023 if the plan is submitted and approved before October 31, 2023.
- Federal employees are ineligible for Colorado FAMLI benefits.
For more details, check out FAMLI.colorado.gov to find more information and a variety of toolkits, webinars and FAQs to help employers and employees navigate the program.