Public Health Emergency Leave Expanded to Include Flu and other Respiratory Illnesses

December 9, 2022

By: Colin A. Walker

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHE) under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) now applies to flu and other respiratory illnesses. Enacted in the summer of 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the HFWA requires employers to provide employees with paid leave for certain health conditions and certain family leave. During a public health emergency, the leave requirement is expanded from 48 hours to 80 hours for leave related to the public health emergency. PHE leave is not specific to COVID. However, until recently, it has not been applied to any other health condition. For example, public health emergency leave has not been applied to mpox (formerly known as “Monkey Pox”). 

However, the Governor has issued an Executive Order expanding the “disaster emergency” to include additional conditions. This expands the coverage of PHE leave. PHE now covers RSV, influenza, and other respiratory illnesses, in addition to COVID-19. (“Other respiratory illnesses” is not defined.) Employees needing leave associated with these illnesses are now entitled to PHE leave as they would for COVID. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has issued guidance regarding the expanded coverage:

CDLE’s web page for HFWA

CDLE Interpretive Notice & Formal Opinion (“INFO”) #6B: (updated December 1, 2022) 

Colorado employers should be familiar with the requirements of the HFWA by now, including PHE leave. Applying them to these additional illnesses should not be burdensome provided employers are aware of the expanded coverage. Employers should carefully review the information promulgated by the CDLE and consult employment law counsel to ensure compliance.