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May 13, 2021

Colorado updates guidance on paid sick leave law for 2021 to include time off for COVID-19 vaccines and makes other changes

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDOLE) issued a press release reminding employers that under Health Families and Workplace Act (HFWA) that took effect on July 15, 2020, all Colorado employees have the right to paid leave for the time it takes to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and for any side effects that prevent them from working.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed SB 20-205 into law, which required employers of 16 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to all employees effective July 15, 2020. The requirement was delayed for employers of 15 or fewer employees ¾ these employers must provide paid sick leave effective January 1, 2022; however, all employers are required to provide the additional COVID-related supplemental leave as of January 1, 2021. (CDOL Interpretive Notice #6B and #6C.)

COVID-related supplemental leave effective January 1, 2021

In addition to the HFWA paid sick leave accrued by an employee, the law requires that employers provide their employees with an added amount of paid sick leave during a public health emergency (PHE).

This PHE supplement assures that the HFWA paid leave the employee accrued before the PHE provides paid time off in the following amounts:

PHE supplemental leave requirements

Hours the employee normally works

Paid leave requirement

Employees normally working 40 or more hours in a week

80 hours of total leave

Employees normally working under 40 hours in a week

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 PHE or the leave request

Effective January 1, 2021, Governor Polis declared a PHE related to COVID-19. Accordingly, all Colorado employers are required to provide the PHE supplement, which is distinct from any COVID-19-related leave that employers were required to provide in 2020.

Employees may use this PHE supplemental leave as of January 1, 2021 (if they were already performing work in 2021), or as of their date of hire, whichever comes later, until four weeks after the end of the PHE.

The PHE supplemental leave applies for employees who:

  1. Need to self-isolate due to either being diagnosed with, or having symptoms of, a communicable illness that is the cause of the PHE
  2. Are seeking a diagnosis, treatment, or care of such an illness (including preventive care, such as a vaccination)
  3. Are excluded from work by a government health official, or by an employer, due to the employee having exposure to, or symptoms of, such an illness (regardless if they are actually diagnosed with the illness)
  4. Are unable to work due to a health condition that may increase susceptibility or risk of such an illness
  5. Are caring for a child or other family member in the above category (1), (2), or (3), or whose school, childcare provider, or other care provider is unavailable, closed, or providing remote instruction due to the emergency

HFWA regular paid leave requirements

Employees begin to accrue sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a yearly maximum of 48 hours. Employees will immediately be able to begin using their sick leave as it is accrued. (CDOL Interpretive Notice #6A.)

Employees may use regular HFWQ accrued paid sick leave for the following purposes:

  • The employee: has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care.
  • The employee needs to care for a family member who: has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; needs a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment related to such illness, injury, or condition; or needs to obtain preventive medical care.
  • The employee or family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and needs to be absent from work for purposes related to such civil or criminal proceeding.

Employers may choose to "front load" sick leave, providing employees with the total amount of required sick leave at the beginning of the year rather than waiting for the employee to accrue the hours.

An employee's unused sick leave must be carried over to the next year; however, an employer may limit the use of sick leave to 48 hours per calendar year.

Employers are not required to pay employees for unused sick leave upon termination, resignation, retirement or other separation from employment.However, if a former employee is rehired by the same employer within six months of the separation, the employer must reinstate any paid sick leave that the employee had accrued but not used prior to the separation.

Employers with a preexisting sick leave policy are not required to provide any additional sick leave if the employer's plan meets or exceeds the requirements under the new law.

Paid sick leave must be paid at the same rate of pay the employee is paid for regular working hours, or at the state minimum wage, whichever is greater.Employees transferred to a separate division of the same employer or to a successor employer must be allowed to transfer their accrued sick leave to their new place of employment.

Employers are required to notify each employee in writing of their right to paid sick leave and to display a poster in the workplace that will be developed by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The Department will publish a model notice to satisfy the requirement of providing written notice to each employee.

For a two-year period, employers must retain records documenting, by employee, the hours worked, paid sick leave accrued, and paid sick leave used and make such records available to the Department. The Department must adopt rules to administer the paid sick leave law.


Contact Information
For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Workforce Tax Services - Employment Tax Advisory Services
   • Kristie Lowery (
   • Kenneth Hausser (
   • Debera Salam (


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