DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado rules that require two weeks of paid sick leave for COVID-19 will continue at least into May, but they no longer apply to other respiratory illnesses like the flu and RSV.

The benefit known as public health emergency leave — or PHE leave — requires all employers to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 cases and related needs.

Starting Nov. 11, the provision also applied to leave for the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and other similar respiratory illnesses, but that ended on Jan. 8, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

According to the state, PHE-leave requirements for COVID-19 will stay in effect as long as a federal or state public health emergency is declared. It will end four weeks after all public health emergency declarations are over.

For now, that means PHE leave remains in effect for COVID-19 at least into May, the state said.

When can employees use PHE leave in Colorado?

Employees can use PHE leave for a number of situations related to COVID-19, not just a confirmed case:

  • Symptoms of COVID, such as fever or chills, cough, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose
  • Quarantining or isolating due to exposure
  • Testing for COVID
  • Vaccination and its side effects
  • Inability to work due to health conditions that may increase susceptibility or risk of COVID
  • Needs to care for family (illness, school closure, etc.)

There are also restrictions on what employers can ask their employees when they take PHE leave.

“Employers cannot require documentation from employees to show that leave is for PHE-related needs,” according to the CDLE.

The state said PHE-leave rules apply to all Colorado employers, regardless of size or industry. Part-time employees are also eligible for the benefit but are not covered for as many hours.

Employers must pay the benefit at the same rate the employee earns, and it must be paid on time, according to the CDLE. It also “can’t be counted against employees as absences that may lead to firing or other negative action.”

Accrued paid sick leave in Colorado

PHE leave must be available in addition to the paid sick leave that Colorado employers are required to provide — one hour of paid leave per 30 hours worked, according to the state. That rule has been in effect since 2021 and is permanent.

Accrued paid sick leave can be used for a number of reasons:

  • Any mental or physical illness, injury or health condition that prevents work 
  • Diagnosis, care or treatment of such conditions
  • Preventive care (including vaccination)
  • Needs from suffering domestic violence, sexual abuse or criminal harassment, or caring for family with such conditions or needs

Unlike PHE leave, employers can require documentation for accrued paid sick leave, “but only for absences of four or more consecutive days — and employees can provide the documentation after the leave ends,” the CDLE said.

The paid sick leave rules are laid out under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act.