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COVID PHE and Related Paid Leave Expected to End Spring June 8, 2023 in Colorado

In an announcement earlier this year, President Biden declared that the Federal COVID-19 public health emergency will end May 11th. It had been renewed 12 times by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. In Colorado that declaration starts the 4-week timer until PHE paid leave ends at the state level. Some federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP may see an end to flexibility with certain requirements that had been bypassed or modified during the pandemic. Participants in those programs, as well as group and individual health plans, may see changes in their cost for COVID-19 testing, vaccination and other related services.

Assuming no further changes, extensions or declarations on the part of federal or state entities, June 8th will mark the final day that PHE paid leave will be offered in Colorado. Employers should note that this has no impact on the state-wide accrued paid sick leave that took effect in January 2021, as that requirement to provide one hour of paid leave per 30 hours worked up to 48 each year remains intact. Keep in mind that if a local, state, or federal PHE is declared in the future, the PHE provision of the HFWA will go back into effect.
As always, contact your Account Manager or the HR Director here at InTANDEM Human Resources with any questions on this or other HR and payroll matters.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Upcoming FAMLI Program Timeline

Colorado FAMLI Deductions Have Begun – What’s Next for this Program During 2023?

At the start of 2023, employers across the state of Colorado began collecting premiums to fund the FAMLI program, which will provide paid family and medical leave to Colorado workers starting in 2024. Employees will be able to file claims to draw from the fund beginning January 2024. A wealth of information has already been released from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and it can be overwhelming as an employer to stay informed. Here are a few of the key milestones the program anticipates during 2023 and into 2024, and how you can stay in the loop:

January 1, 2023: Employers begin deducting premiums from employees and setting aside their employer contribution. Employers must post the 2023 Required Program Notice in a prominent area in the workplace. InTANDEM HR emailed this poster to client contacts, and posted to the ESS. Resources for this posting and other communications to employees can be found in the FAMLI Toolkit on the CDLE website.

March 31, 2023: The FAMLI Division anticipates the process for approving private plan applications will be up and running by this date, though the functionality is not yet available. Employers can find information on private plans on the FAMLI section of the CDLE website in the meantime.

April 30, 2023: Employers must be registered and have a My FAMLI+ Employer account. First premium payments are due from Q1. InTANDEM HR has handled this for our clients.

July 31, 2023: Premium payments are due from Q2.

October 31, 2023: Premium payments are due from Q3. Private plans must be approved by this date in order for employers to request a refund for 2023 premiums. Private plan information can be found on the CDLE’s FAMLI website here.

No later than December 31st, 2023: InTANDEM HR will update all existing client’s Employee Handbooks to reflect pertinent FAMLI information. 

January 1, 2024: Employee can start filing claims for benefits.

January 31, 2024: Premium payments are due from Q4.

With all this slated to occur in 2023 (and more to come!), what can an employer do to stay on top of deadlines and changes?

Town Halls: These virtual one-hour sessions provide the basics of the program and a Q&A at the end – to RSVP for the 2/28 or 3/21 sessions (available in English or Spanish), use this form. The CDLE anticipates offering hybrid sessions in Summer of 2023.

Webinars: Recordings of prior informational webinars on a variety of FAMLI-related topics are available to view here on the CDLE website. You can also see a list of upcoming webinars on that page.

Newsletter: Register for the FAMLI newsletter and stay up to date on newly released information, deadlines and other important details about the FAMLI program.

Connect with Professionals: Reach out to us! As a Colorado-based PEO, we are up to speed and ready to help you and your employees navigate through this new benefit. Contact your InTANDEM HR Account Manager or HR Director with questions.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Public Health Emergency Leave is Still in Effect — Reduced to COVID Only From January 8, 2023! 

All Colorado employers, regardless of size or industry, still must give employees both (1) “accrued” paid sick leave (one hour per 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours a year), and (2) public health emergency (“PHE”) leave (two weeks — 80 hours, or less for part-time employees) under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). Colorado’s 80-hour PHE leave is ongoing: It continues as long as a federal or state PHE is declared (C.R.S. § 8-13.3-402(9)) — and while state public health orders have been scaled back, currently federal and Colorado PHEs both remain declared.

As of January 8, 2023, the conditions covered by Colorado’s latest PHE declaration are COVID-related only. From November 11, 2022 until January 8, 2023, the conditions covered by Colorado’s PHE declaration at the time include health needs related to not just COVID, but also flu, respiratory syncytial virus (“RSV”), and similar respiratory illnesses. Those with flu or RSV symptoms already were likely covered as having COVID symptoms — so a key impact of this expansion may be that coverage remains even if testing confirms someone has flu or RSV rather than COVID. The expansion beyond COVID doesn’t give employees an extra 80 hours for those conditions, it just means they can use their 80 hours for a broader range of conditions.

This 80-hour PHE leave will continue until four weeks after all applicable PHE declarations end or are suspended. Based on the current emergency declarations, PHE emergency leave will continue at least into May 2023, but will continue longer if either the federal or the state PHE declaration is renewed further into 2023. For more information on paid sick leave, please see the CDLE Division of Labor Standards and Statistics’ HFWA webpage: https://cdle.colorado.gov/hfwa

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IRS Mileage Rate Increase

The IRS has issued an increase to their standard mileage rate, beginning on January 1, 2023. The standard mileage rates for the use of a car (and vans, pickups etc.) is 65.5 cents per mile driven for business use. This is up 3 cents from the unusual midyear increase setting the rate for the second half of 2022.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. Keep in mind that this is an optional rate for private sector employers. We tend to see the majority of businesses match the IRS standard mileage rate.

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PHE Extended for RSV, Flu, Respiratory Purposes

The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) requires Colorado employers to provide two types of paid sick leave to their employees: public health emergency (PHE) leave and accrued leave. The following points apply to both PHE and accrued leave.

  • Leave must be paid for time on leave, and at the same pay rate the employee earns during time worked.
  • Leave can’t be counted against employees as absences that may lead to firing or other negative action.

Public Health Emergency (PHE) Leave (Updated to Include Similar Respiratory Illnesses)

Update – November 11, 2022 – Public Health Emergency Leave is Still in Effect — and has Expanded from Just COVID to Flu and RSV Too! 
In addition to “accrued paid sick leave” (addressed below), all Colorado employers, regardless of size or industry, still must provide employees with public health emergency (“PHE”) leave (two weeks — 80 hours, or less for part-time employees) under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA). Colorado’s 80-hour PHE leave is ongoing: It continues as long as a federal or state PHE is declared (C.R.S. § 8-13.3-402(9)) — and while state public health orders have been scaled back, currently federal and Colorado PHEs both remain declared.

As of November 11, 2022, the conditions covered by Colorado’s latest PHE declaration include health needs related to not just COVID, but also flu, respiratory syncytial virus (“RSV”), and similar respiratory illnesses. Those with flu or RSV symptoms already were likely covered as having COVID symptoms — so a key impact of this expansion may be that coverage remains even if testing confirms someone has flu or RSV rather than COVID. The expansion beyond COVID doesn’t give employees an extra 80 hours for those conditions, it just means they can use their 80 hours for a broader range of conditions.

PHE leave is usable for a range of PHE-related needs, not just for confirmed cases. PHE-related needs include:

  • Symptoms of COVID, flu, RSV or other similar respiratory illnesses
  • Quarantining or isolating due to exposure
  • Testing for COVID or similar respiratory illnesses
  • Vaccination and its side effects
  • Inability to work due to health conditions that may increase susceptibility or risk of COVID, flu, RSV or similar respiratory illnesses
  • Needs to care for family (illness, school closure, etc.)

Employers cannot require documentation from employees to show that leave is for PHE-related needs. 

This 80-hour PHE leave will continue until four weeks after all applicable PHE declarations end or are suspended. Based on the current emergency declarations, PHE emergency leave will continue at least into February 2023, but will continue longer if either the federal or the state PHE declaration is renewed further into 2023.

This excerpt taken from: https://cdle.colorado.gov/hfwa

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2023 HR Changes Employers Need to Know!

City of Denver Minimum Wage Increase

Effective January 1, 2023, the City of Denver minimum wage will increase from the current $15.87 per hour, to $17.29 per hour.

State law requires tipped employees like servers and bartenders can only be paid $3.02 an hour less than the minimum wage. If their tips don’t take them up to the actual minimum wage the employer must pay them in “tip credit make-up”.

State of Colorado Exempt Salary Wage Increase

Effective January 1, 2023, the State of Colorado exempt salary wage will increase from $865.38 per week ($45,000 per year) to $961.54 per week ($50,000 per year). Employees cannot be considered exempt if they earn less than this amount, annually, with limited exceptions (Outside Sales persons paid on a commission basis do not fall under these parameters).

Colorado FAMLI (Family and Medical Leave Insurance)

Colorado FAMLI (Family and Medical Leave Insurance) was voted into law by Colorado voters in November of 2020. This law will require that ALL Colorado employees have access to paid family leave for up to 12 weeks (16 for extenuating circumstances following childbirth) any of these circumstances (following 180 days of employment) EFFECTIVE 1/1/2024:

  • Care for a new child, including adopted and fostered children
  • Care for themselves, if they have a serious health condition 
  • Care for a family member’s serious health condition
  • Make arrangements for a family member’s military deployment
  • Address the immediate safety needs and impact of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Employers and their employees are both responsible for funding the program and may split the cost 50/50. The premiums are set to 0.9% of the employee’s wage, with .45% paid by the employer and .45% paid by the employee. Employers may also elect to pay the full amount if they choose to offer this as an added perk for their employees. THE PREMIUMS MUST BEGIN TO BE COLLECTED AS OF 1/1/2023, THOUGH BENEFITS CAN’T BE USED UNTIL 1/1/2024.

Businesses with nine or fewer employees do not have to contribute to the program, but do need to remit their employees’ share (.45%)  of premium payments on behalf each quarter. This can be done through a simple payroll deduction. InTANDEM HR will handle the payroll deductions for each of our clients.

While an employee is on leave, any of their benefits must be maintained in the same manner with the same employer contribution, and their jobs must be held (so it is similar to FMLA in that manner, but impacts all of us and not just larger employers, like the FMLA).

Employers who offer their own paid leave program may apply for an exemption. Exemption applications will be reviewed to determine whether or not the employer’s private plan is adequately comparable to the benefits provided by the FAMLI program.

The state of Colorado has an AMAZING website to address our questions about FAMLI:

https://famli.colorado.gov/

Colorado Secure Savers Program

The Colorado Secure Savers Program requires that any employer in the state of Colorado with five (5) or more employees, whom as an employer has been active for more than two years and does NOT ALREADY OFFER a qualified retirement program (like 401(k)), offer the Colorado Secure Savings program. This is an automatic enrollment program that places savings into a Roth IRA, which means that contributions are made with after-tax dollars. When you retire and start taking money out of your Roth IRA (like you’re paying yourself), there are no taxes. In other words, all the interest that your account earns over the years is tax-free.

Upon enrollment, employees will be opted into the default savings rate for Colorado Secure Savings: 5% of their gross pay. Beyond this, deferral rates may vary depending on how much you want to save each year. In addition, age, marital status, and income play a role in the amount that you can contribute. The new Colorado plans will “travel with” people even if they change jobs or leave the state. Keep in mind that the program is voluntary and flexible. Employees are not required to participate and can always cancel their participation at any time.

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InTANDEM HR hearts Open Enrollment!

Because we get the opportunity to talk to all of our clients about their benefits! This is a great time for all of us. A big part of the benefit of partnering with InTANDEM HR are the massive amounts of employee benefits that we spend heaps of time cultivating to pass through to our wonderful client partners. Our fourth quarter is all about seeing through to fruition the work we’ve done throughout the year to maintain competitive benefits offerings. We love hearing from all of you with your great questions about how to create, maintain, and improve competitive benefits packages that help to attract and retain talent and set you apart as an employer of choice. We are also here to help navigate the upcoming FAMLI and Colorado Savers programs. Please keep us in touch and in mind while you contemplate your benefits strategy for 2023!

Stacy Jensen No Comments

PHE presumed to renew, federally

The extension of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) was formally extended, again, on July 15th. Given that the PHE can be extended for up to 90 days at a time, it runs through October 13, 2022. The Biden administration has indicated there will be a 60-day notice period before any end to the PHE. Colorado has not received this notice and expects the PHE to be extended again in October. This means that Colorado employer’s obligation to pay PHE pay for COVID related reasons will continue for at least a few more months. We will alert everyone to any changes as it relates to employer’s obligations under the PHE.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Changes to Employer’s ability to deduct for unreturned Company Property

Effective January 1, 2023, the process for attempting to recoup unreturned company property from Colorado employees will become more laborious. It has been necessary to obtain a “receipt of company property” form in order to attempt a deduction in the past, and still will be, but we will now need to take a couple of more steps in order to ensure we are on the right side of the CDLE. Whenever any company property is issued to an employee, ensure that you are including the date it is received, description of item, cost of the item, and the appropriate language on the form to ensure a proper deduction can be made (please use the InTANDEM HR form or something that contains the same approved language). Going forward, in addition, if the property is not returned, in order to deduct the fair market value from final pay, an employer must provide notice to the employee within 10 days of separation containing 1). a written accounting specifying the amount of money or the specific property the employee failed to return (so this includes unpaid loans) 2). the replacement value of the property (fair market value) 3). date the property/money was given to the employee 4) when the employee should have paid the money or returned the goods.

Then, if they do pay the money or give the property back within 14 days of the notice, the employer must pay back the employee the amount of the deduction within 14 days of getting the money/property back.

I cannot express how frequently I get questions about unreturned company property. It is a thing. Now is the time to shore up your process – get those forms signed, make sure employees understand the expectation of returning everything, and let’s get used to the new process now.

Stacy Jensen No Comments

Prep time for S.B. 22-161!

Senate Bill 22-161 ups the ante for employer wage mishaps. Beginning January 1, 2023, employers who don’t pay owed wages within 14 days will face an automatic penalty of either two times the amount of the unpaid wages, or $1,000, whichever is greater. For proven willful violations, that goes up to three times or $3,000. Employees can now make demands for similarly situated employees on their behalf, as well as on their own.