Maternity and Parental Leave Laws in Colorado

Colorado law gives you the right to take paid maternity or parental leave and the right to reasonable accommodations when you’re pregnant so you can work.

By , J.D., UC Berkeley School of Law

Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in Colorado, both the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the state's Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI) give you the right to take time off for these reasons.

Additionally, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which might also give you the right to take time off work. The 2023 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) strengthens these protections. Colorado also has a separate state law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.

Paid Family and Medical Leave in Colorado

Starting in 2024, most employees in Colorado will have the right to take paid time off for pregnancy and childbirth under the state's Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI Act). Eligible employees will receive up to 12 weeks of leave per year under the FAMLI Act. If you have complications from pregnancy or childbirth, you can receive an additional four weeks. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-13.3-501.)

Who Is Eligible for FAMLI Paid Leave?

To be eligible for paid pregnancy or parental leave under Colorado's FAMLI Act, all of the following must be true:

  • You're self-employed or the employee of a covered employer (see below).
  • You've earned at least $2,500 in wages that were subject to FAMLI Act premiums over the last year.

In addition, for your job to be protected so that you'll be reinstated to your same job, or an equivalent job, upon your return to work, you have to have worked for your employer for at least six months before you start your leave.

Self-employed workers and employees of local governments that chose not to participate (see below) can opt into the plan and pay their premiums directly to the state fund. (Or learn how to get your own short-term disability insurance for pregnancy.)

Do All Employers in Colorado Have to Provide Paid FAMLI Leave?

No, employers only have to provide FAMLI leave if they:

  • employ at least one person for 20 or more weeks in the current or immediately preceding calendar year, or
  • paid wages of $1,500 or more during any calendar quarter in the preceding calendar year.

The state government of Colorado is a covered employer. The federal government (and railroads) aren't. Local governments are covered employers, but they're allowed to opt out of the program.

Also, Colorado law allows other employers to opt out of the FAMLI program if they offer similar benefits and the state approves the employer's plan. (Learn more in Colorado's FAMLI Leave FAQ.)

How Much Do You Get Paid for Maternity or Parental Leave in Colorado?

Starting January 1, 2024, most employees in Colorado can take paid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting under the FAMLI Act. (If your new child arrived in 2023, you can still use paid FAMLI leave in 2024. You have a full year to use the 12 weeks available to you).

The state uses a fairly complex formula to determine how much your FAMLI benefits will be. The cash benefit is calculated using the average weekly wage in Colorado. Generally, your FAMLI benefits will be about 90% of your weekly wages on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of $1,100 per week.

Your employer can't require you to use paid time off you've accrued on the job (like sick time or vacation) while you're on FAMLI leave. But you can choose to use paid time off you've accrued while you're receiving FAMLI leave benefits—as long as the total of the two isn't more than $1,100 per week.

If your employer offers an alternate maternity and parental leave plan or insurance policy, the plan will determine how much you receive.

If you don't qualify for FAMLI leave (or from now until January 1, 2024, when FAMLI benefits start), you can take FMLA leave, but it's unpaid. But you can ask—or your employer might require you—to use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your FMLA time off.

Can I Take Maternity Leave Under the Federal FMLA?

Maternity leave under the federal FMLA is unpaid, but it provides job protections. The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in one year for pregnancy, maternity, and parental leave (among other things). An employee returning from FMLA leave has the right to get the same job back, or a similar one. But the FMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees.

If you qualify, you might use the FMLA to take time off when you can't work because of your pregnancy and childbirth. You can also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)

How Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Protect Colorado Employees

The federal PDA doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. But when you can't work due to pregnancy, the law requires your employer to treat you just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for temporary disabilities, like a broken leg or a stroke, you must be allowed to take the same time off when you can't work because of your pregnancy.

The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires covered employers (those with 15 or more employees) to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Under this law, that can include time off if you need it.

Similarly, Colorado's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (see below) requires employers to make the same leave available to employees who can't work temporarily because of pregnancy and childbirth that they make available to employees who are temporarily disabled by other conditions.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers in Colorado

Colorado's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act gives pregnant employees the right to reasonable accommodations—changes to their position or work rules—that will allow them to do their jobs. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.3) Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth can include (but aren't limited to) any of the following:

  • more or longer breaks during the workday
  • light duty
  • job restructuring
  • modification of equipment (including seating), or
  • modified work schedules.

For example, if you're struggling with morning sickness early in your pregnancy or can't work a full day as you near your due date, you might be eligible for a modified schedule that gives you some time off or a shorter work day.

The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Under this law, reasonable accommodations include all of the accommodations above and even time off work.

Taking Unpaid Parental Leave in Colorado

If you aren't covered by Colorado's paid family leave law (FAMLI), you might still be entitled to take time off to bond with a new child under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA parenting leave is available when you have a new child, whether:

  • by birth
  • adoption, or
  • foster placement.

The parental leave you take is part of your total 12-week FMLA leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave.

If you're married to someone who works for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. But whatever portion of your own 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons, including your own serious health condition.

But note that, if you qualify for parental leave under both Colorado's paid FAMLI Act and the FMLA, the leave is concurrent. So, if you use 12 weeks of paid FAMLI leave for your child's birth, you won't have any FMLA leave left. (Learn more about your rights under the FMLA.)

Your employer might offer other benefits, like short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.

Intermittent Leave Under Colorado's FAMLI Act and the FMLA

The federal FMLA allows employees to take their pregnancy or parental leave intermittently if it's medically necessary. For example, if you have a prenatal check-up, you don't have to take a whole day off. Instead, you can use a couple of hours of your FMLA leave and then go back to work.

The same is true for pregnancy-related ailments that don't last all day. If, for instance, you have morning sickness that lives up to its name, you might need a few hours off in the morning but be able to come to work by lunchtime. Intermittent leave of this type is permitted under the FMLA.

But for parental leave, the rules are different. If you want to use your FMLA parenting leave a little at a time—for example, by returning to work half-time or by taking some of your leave when the baby is born and some at a later point when your partner returns to work—your employer must agree to it. And you must finish your time off within one year after the baby is born.

You can also use leave under Colorado's FAMLI Act intermittently, in the smallest period your employer typically uses to measure employee leave (as little as one hour or less). So, if your employer allows employees to use just an hour of vacation or sick time, you can also use FAMLI leave for just an hour.

But if your employer requires you to use other paid time off in half-day (four-hour) increments, you can only use FAMLI in four-hour blocks. And the state won't pay benefits until you've accumulated at least eight hours of FAMLI leave. (Learn more about Colorado's Family and Medical Leave Insurance program.)

Updated July 26, 2023

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