sick woman with medicine

Paid Sick Leave Requirements
Effective January 1, 2022

Starting on January 1, 2022, businesses with 15 or fewer employees will be required to provide paid sick leave to employees in accordance with Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (“HFWA” or “the Act”). The HFWA’s paid sick leave mandate, which took effect for employers with 16 or more employees on January 1, 2021, applies to all public and private employers in Colorado. As such, employers with 15 or fewer employees must take the steps necessary to ensure compliance with the HWFA’s paid sick leave requirements at the start of the New Year.

Under HFWA, sick leave may be used for the following purposes:

  • The employee has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents the employee from working;
  • A family member for whom the employee needs to provide care has a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
  • The employee or a family member for whom the employee needs to provide care needs to obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
  • The employee or a family member for whom the employee needs to provide care needs to obtain preventative medical care;
  • The employee or the employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or harassment and the employee must be absent from work to seek medical attention, obtain services from a victim services organization, obtain mental health or other counseling, seek relocation, or seek legal services; or
  • A public official has ordered the closure of the employee’s place of business or the school or place of care of the employee’s child due to a public health emergency.

For purposes of the HFWA, a family member is defined as an immediate family member including any person related by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption. The definition also encompasses a guardianship relationship and specifically includes a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care.

Employers with existing paid leave policies may satisfy the requirements of the HFWA if their policies meet the requirements outlined in the HFWA. Specifically, to comply with the HFWA any leave policy must:

  • Provide paid leave of at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked (including overtime) for a maximum of 48 hours of paid leave per year;
  • Meet the requirements of the HFWA, such as no waiting periods for use and accrual;
  • Apply to all employees, regardless of classification (full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary);  and
  • Allow employees to use the paid leave for the purposes outlined above.

The Act encourages employers to provide more generous leave than the minimum requirements outlined in the Act. The Act also makes clear that employers may not diminish their current leave policies, which may be more generous than the HFWA.

Paid sick leave is paid at the employee’s same hourly rate or salary, not including overtime, bonuses, or holiday pay. The HFWA further outlines how to calculate such hourly rates for employees who are paid on a commission basis.

The Act sets forth various technical requirements. First, employers must provide employees with written notice regarding their paid sick leave rights, as well as post notice of the requirements of the HFWA. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has published notices for employers to utilize. All Colorado employers should post the most current poster immediately. Second, employers must maintain personnel records for a period of two years that documents the employee’s hours worked, amount of paid sick leave accrued, and amount of paid sick leave used. Finally, the Act prohibits retaliation against an employee for exercising their paid sick leave rights.

The Act does not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement if employees’ rights under the Act are expressly waived in the collective bargaining agreement and the collective bargaining agreement provides equivalent or more generous paid sick leave.

Understanding all the nuances of this law can be overwhelming.  For those employers that have had to comply with the paid sick leave mandate under the HFWA since last January, most have had to update their existing policies in one way or another.  As such, it is important that employers review and revise their existing policies to comply with the HFWA or adopt a new policy to meet the paid sick leave requirements.

As a reminder, the HFWA also requires all employers to provide paid public health emergency leave, which has been required of all employers, regardless of size, since January 1, 2021.  For additional information on these leave requirements, please refer to our prior FAQ.

If you have questions about how the HFWA impacts your business, please contact employment law attorney Michelle B. Ferguson at or 303-628-3658.

The information provided herein is intended as general information and is not to be construed as legal advice. If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.