The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) recently made two small but important changes to its rules interpreting the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. The changes were published on February 23 and take effect on April 14, 2021.
Beginning January 1, 2021, the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) requires employers with 16 or more employees to provide up to 48 hours of paid sick leave. These rule changes do not affect this leave.
In addition, the Act requires all employers, regardless of their size, to provide public health emergency leave (PHEL) to employees upon the declaration of a public health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic was re-declared to be a public health emergency on December 27, 2020, just prior to the Act’s effective date. This redeclaration triggered the requirement for employers to provide PHEL to employees beginning January 1, 2021.
For full-time employees employed as of January 1, 2021, employers were required to provide up to 80 hours of PHEL as of that date. For part-time employees, employers are required to provide an amount of leave equal to the greater of the employee’s actual hours worked in a 14-day period or the employee’s scheduled hours in a 14-day period. What was not clear before was which 14-day period employers should use for this calculation. Now, the rules say that part-time employees receive PHEL in “the greater of the number of hours the employee (a) is scheduled for work or paid leave in the 14-day period after the leave request, or (b) actually worked in the 14-day period prior to the declaration of the public health emergency or the leave request, whichever is later.” Tying the calculation of PHEL for part-time employees to the leave request ensures that the amount of leave provided reflects the employee’s current work hours or schedule.
The second change concerns whether employers must provide public health emergency leave to newly hired employees. Previously, the rules could have been interpreted to mean that new hires would not be eligible for PHEL. However, the rule now makes clear that employees who are hired during a public health emergency are entitled to PHEL. Full-time new hires should receive PHEL as of their hire date. Part-time new hires will receive PHEL based on the timing of their leave request as described above.
While these rule changes are not set to take effect until April 14, 2021, the CDLE has said that employers can rely on them now since they are clarifications of the rule and not substantive changes to rights and responsibilities under the Act.
We will continue to keep you updated as changes like this occur. Contact us with your questions about the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act.