DENVER (KDVR) — The public health emergency is coming to an end, and so is a benefit that helps workers get paid through a case of COVID-19.

Colorado has required paid sick leave for all employees since 2021, when the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act took effect. The law also requires up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave during a public health emergency, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that stage is coming to a close in the U.S., with the federal public health emergency to end on May 11. Colorado’s emergency declaration will also end, the governor’s office has said.

So what does that mean for workers who need to use PHE leave for a COVID-related absence?

PHE leave applies not only to confirmed COVID cases but to related needs like testing, vaccination or caring for a family member. When the PHE ends, the benefit will not disappear right away.

Employees can still use PHE leave for another four weeks after both the state and federal public health emergencies end, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“If that end date is May 11, PHE leave would be available through June 8, 2023. Employees would not be entitled to take PHE leave from June 9th on,” a department spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Read more: Pandemic-era benefits that end this year

When can employees use PHE sick leave in Colorado?

Employees can use PHE leave for a number of situations related to COVID-19, not just a confirmed case:

  • Symptoms of COVID, such as fever or chills, cough, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose
  • Quarantining or isolating due to exposure
  • Testing for COVID
  • Vaccination and its side effects
  • Inability to work due to health conditions that may increase susceptibility or risk of COVID
  • Needs to care for family (illness, school closure, etc.)

There are also restrictions on what employers can ask their employees when they take PHE leave.

“Employers cannot require documentation from employees to show that leave is for PHE-related needs,” according to the CDLE.

The state said PHE-leave rules apply to all Colorado employers, regardless of size or industry. Part-time employees are also eligible for the benefit but are not covered for as many hours.

Employers must pay the benefit at the same rate the employee earns, and it must be paid on time, according to the CDLE. It also “can’t be counted against employees as absences that may lead to firing or other negative action.”