FAMLI Program update

Becky O'GuinFeatured News

By Pam Brockhaus, CDA Chief Financial Officer
From the 2024 Winter Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

As of Jan. 1, 2024, employees can begin applying for benefits under the FAMLI Act. Employers and employees began contributions to the program in 2023. Employees apply for benefits directly from the state.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has a wealth of information concerning the FAMLI Act at famli.colorado.gov. This article will summarize the key points in this program for employers.

There is a significant amount of overlap between Colorado’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program and Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) as well as the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since the federal FMLA is specific to employers of 50 or more employees this article will be restricted to only the Colorado programs for relevancy.

HFWA stipulates that employers provide one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked up to 48 hours annually. This coverage is designed to be available to employees immediately with no waiting period.

FAMLI is a social insurance program funded through Colorado employee and employer contributions, which can be claimed by employees through the state portal to access partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks of leave (with another four weeks due to pregnancy complications) for certain life events such as the birth or adoption of a child, serious health conditions, caring for a loved one with a medical condition, to recover or resolve domestic or sexual abuse or the needs of family members of those in active-duty military service. Benefits to employees through FAMLI are accessible once the individual has earned at least $2,500 in wages in Colorado within the past four calendar quarters.

The FAMLI division of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has scheduled town halls in January and February to assist applicants in the navigation of the portal. Registration for these town halls is available on the FAMLI website, https://famli.colorado.gov/resources/famli-events

Depending on the issue, an employee’s leave may be covered by HFWA, FAMLI or both. For example, a new parent wants to bond and care for their newborn but not due to a medical condition or health need of either the child or parent. In this scenario, only FAMLI applies. In another instance, that same parent needs to take the child into the doctor for a routine checkup, HFWA applies but FAMLI does not.

If both HFWA and FAMLI apply, the employee can choose which program to utilize. The employee may have a situation where they are not sure if the leave needed will be longer than that provided by HFWA so the employee may use HFWA first and then FAMLI if more time is required. More information is on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website at https://famli.colorado.gov/employers/famli-other-types-of-leave.

When an employee is utilizing the FAMLI program the employer is not responsible for the employee’s salary or wages. Employers are required to maintain the portion, if any, of the health insurance they normally cover for the employee. The wage benefit is capped at $1,100/week. Although the program does not require employees to use PTO prior to accessing benefits, the employer can allow employees to use accrued PTO to make up the difference between the FAMLI benefit and the employee’s wages. However, the employee cannot be paid more than their average weekly wage.

Documentation is required prior to the FAMLI benefit being approved. This benefit can only be accessed once per year across a rolling calendar year. For example, if the employee takes FAMLI leave starting on March 1, 2024, that same employee is not eligible for FAMLI leave again until March 1, 2025. The employer will be notified by the FAMLI Division when a claim is filed, if the claim has been approved, the duration of the claim and the leave type.

In the event the employer offers short- or long-term disability benefits, it is up to the employer whether to require that FAMLI benefits run concurrently as long as the employer provides notice to the employees in writing.

Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to use vacation, sick leave or PTO before or while receiving FAMLI benefits. Any contributions paid by employees to the FAMLI program will remain in this program upon the retirement of the employee or if leaving the state.

Employers wishing to appeal a FAMLI determination can access information on the requirements and submit the form electronically at https://famli.colorado.gov/individuals-and-families/appeals.