At the Legislature: Family and Medical Leave for Employees

Among the issues at the Capitol receiving a significant amount of attention this year is a proposed state-run family and medical leave program. The program would grant paid leave to most Colorado employees for purposes of childbirth/adoption, major illness, or caring for a sick loved one.

Federal law currently provides benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. FMLA allows employees up to twelve weeks of leave during a one-year period. FMLA only applies to employers with fifty or more employees, however. In addition, eligible employees must have worked for their employer for at least twelve months and 1,250 hours. Because of these requirements, many workers do not qualify for FMLA. Consequently, eight states have enacted their own paid family and medical leave laws. This month, the Colorado Legislative Council published a Memo and Issue Brief providing detail on the laws passed by other states, including how their programs are funded, the benefit amount, and length of leave.

In Colorado, bills creating family and medical leave programs were previously introduced but not passed each year since 2014. Recent attempts in 2017 and 2018 were postponed indefinitely. Another attempt was made in 2019. That bill presented many unanswered questions, such as whether employers and employees would have to pay for two programs if an employer already offered a leave program. To work through some of these questions, an amended version of the bill was passed to create a Task Force to study the issue. After several months spent gathering information and feedback, the Task Force issued a Final Report in January at the start of the Legislative session.

As of now, a 2020 bill has not yet been introduced, but is currently in development as lawmakers weigh funding options and benefit amounts based on the findings presented in the Task Force report. Once the bill is introduced, you can monitor its progress on the General Assembly homepage.