In the News

DBJ: The debate over Colorado’s paid family and medical leave will return in 2022

By Ed Sealover for The Denver Business Journal

Voters ended a six-year-long legislative debate on paid family and medical leave in 2020 when they approved the creation of a program under which all private employers must offer as much as 12 weeks of partially paid leave to their employees beginning in 2024.

Now, after two years of relative quiet on the issue, paid family leave is likely to be a point of debate again in 2022, as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment sits down to hash out specifics of the new law. That must be done in time for employers to start paying fees and taking money out of workers’ paychecks at the beginning of 2023, before said workers can start taking the leave the next year.

So far, there hasn’t been substantial progress on the details, but business groups already are raising concerns about several issues they fear could be coming. Paramount among them is what the process will be for exempting companies that have existing paid-leave programs from having to contribute to the state program or to work through that system, in which state workers will approve or deny all leave requests.

Colorado Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Loren Furman said employers are seeking a reasonable exemption for any company whose benefits meet or exceed state minimums in areas like the 12 weeks and reimbursement levels that reach 90% for the lowest-paid workers. Many companies invested heavily in expanded benefits to attract and retain employees in recent years, and they argue it’s vital that they be able to maintain what’s been promised.

“Employers don’t want to participate in the state system if they have their own plans because they’ve already created these expectations for providing leave for their workers,” Furman said. “That creates frustrations to employers and for their employees.”