The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act


What you need to know.

JAN 7, 2021


As part of Payroll Vault’s commitment to providing businesses with knowledge on the latest legislation pertaining to their operations, here is a breakdown of the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. We will be sharing updates as they come through. If you have any questions, please reach out to your local Payroll Vault professionals for more specific information.


The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act was signed into law in 2020. For any businesses with 16 full-time employees or more in 2021, here are answers to some of the questions we’ve been receiving from our clients:


48 hours of sick time will be accrued at 1 hour per 30 hours worked for hourly employees or about 6 hours per month for salaried employees. (If we assume a consistent 40-hour week, full-time salaried employees will reach a max accrual around 8 months.)


A total of 80 hours of sick leave is to be provided during a state of emergency – which we are currently in due to COVID. Governor Polis has been declaring the emergency on a monthly basis since March of 2020. Please check with your payroll provider and the state of Colorado website for up-to-date information on our state of emergency status.


HFWA applies to any employer with 16 or more employees, BUT it applies to EVERYONE for the 80 hours since we are in a pandemic. For 16 employees and over, the 48 hours are included in the 80 hours, not in addition to. 80 hours is the max for full-time employees. (All businesses regardless of size must provide sick pay according to these guidelines starting in 2022.)


Overtime is included in the per hour accrual for non-exempt employees, but it is NOT included to calculate the hourly rate paid out.


Time can be taken under the new HFWA law for:


  • Mental or physical illness that prevents the employee from working
  • Getting a diagnosis or treatment for mental or physical illness, injury, or condition
  • Preventative care
  • The care of a family member seeking the above
  • If employee or family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual harassment, or sexual assault


Accrued sick hours don’t follow the employee from employer to employer. However, if a business is sold and the majority of the employees remain the same, the new owner must honor the accrued time. Also, if an employee leaves and comes back within 6 months, their accrual remains.


48 hours can carry over from year to year, but the employee can be limited to only use 48 hours in a year (for example: this is helpful to an employee who needs to use their time in January but hasn’t accrued enough time yet).


No accrued hours are paid out upon termination.


Employers who have a more generous plan can work with that, but we recommend having a separate accrual/pay item to track it as it’s not paid out upon termination. If they are reported or audited, it will be beneficial to have this specifically tracked. They also are required to provide leave based upon the circumstances outlined in the law.


Accrual starts on the first day of work and can be used as earned. Employers may also choose to allow future accrual to be used (so the balances would go into the negative in this instance).


We recommend clients add this to their handbook to clarify the policy as well as the preferred notification requirements when possible (although the employer can’t deny paid sick leave if employees don’t comply with the notification policy).


A labor poster outlining this law is required unless the business is required to currently be closed. Electronic copies must be supplied to remote workers.


Records for this must be kept for 2 years.


Employers CAN take disciplinary action if time is taken other than for the reasons outlined in the law.


Employees can take the time in one-hour increments.


If employers are based outside of Colorado, they are still required to provide this required sick pay to their employees working in the state of Colorado. Colorado employers with employees outside of the state need to consult the state sick pay leave laws for that state to make sure they’re in compliance.


The FFCRA CARES Act credit counts toward the 80 hours required to be given during a pandemic. It’s 80 TOTAL hours, not 80 in addition to the 48 hours. But the 80 hours starts over in 2021 for Colorado, but not for FFCRA – make sure your payroll company is helping you track the time taken.


Employees can use their accrued additional emergency sick leave up to 4 weeks after the end of the declared emergency.


HFWA law:


Colorado HFWA and Pay equity summary:


Colorado update summary article:


FFCRA update: