Colorado parental and family medical leave laws provide unpaid job protection rights for many Centennial State residents. Unfortunately, only a few enjoy income replacement benefits.

Covered employers must allow qualifying workers to take unpaid time off from work during maternity, paternity, or a family medical leave of absence. Paid assistance is available for only a small fraction of employees.

Before making a decision on what to do, mothers and fathers should research what rights they have. This article will answer common questions that many new parents and family caregivers have.

  • Is Maternity leave paid in Colorado?
  • How Long is Colorado FMLA?
  • Who qualifies for job protection rights?

Colorado Paid Family Leave Benefits

The State of Colorado does not offer or require paid maternity or family medical leave benefits. Workers have limited opportunities to gain income assistance to replace income while not working.

Although not required by law, some private employers offer paid maternity or family leave benefits. However, this is very rare. Temporary disability and unemployment programs help only a small group of families.

Maternity Leave Assistance

Request a maternity loan to find out if you can receive temporary private assistance. If approved, the lender sends money directly to your bank account. The financing helps parents pay their bills while the mother is at home with her baby.

Read more about loan repayment requirements during maternity leave on the same page.

It is important to verify job protections before borrowing money to fund time away from work. Families need a regular source of income to repay the loan in monthly installments. It will be difficult to make the additional monthly payments if you are unable to return to work.

Unemployment for Maternity Leave

Collecting unemployment benefits for maternity leave in Colorado is possible after a significant delay. This form of financial assistance is only available to parents and caregivers who terminate employment.

It is possible to collect unemployment only after meeting these requirements.

  • They must be unemployed because of reasons beyond their control
  • Recipients must be physically able and available for work
  • Applicants have to be actively looking for a new job
  • They should be willing to accept all suitable work

Parents and caregivers who quit or discharged for a valid separation reason may be eligible for benefits. The state lists medical conditions as a valid separation reason. It is unclear whether the medical reason pertains to the employee’s own disability, the care of a sick family member, or both.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability in Colorado offers paid maternity and medical leave benefits for proactive workers. The state does not offer a program. Each person must purchase a private policy at work or through an independent agent.

However, many people wait until it is too late. It is important to buy coverage before getting hurt, sick, or pregnant. The private policies exclude coverage for any preexisting condition for at least 12 months.

You cannot file a claim for benefits unless you purchased a private plan well in advance of the need.

Colorado Family Medical Leave Laws

The average maternity leave in Colorado lasts 12 weeks. A national employment law determines the length of unpaid protected time each parent gets.  A state-based regulation expands eligibility to a wider group of workers.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

You do not get paid during FMLA. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation that applies to certain employers and workers in all 50 states – including Colorado. It provides 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to qualifying parents working for covered employers.

The FMLA also requires that employers continue access to health care benefits on the same basis as employees who are still working. This benefit is very important for parents as at least one family member needs ongoing medical care.

The FMLA also excuses workdays missed due to OB/GYN visits and prenatal care.

FMLA Paperwork

Each covered Colorado employer should provide the FMLA paperwork. Fill out the form and turn them in at your workplace. You also need a signature from your doctor to verify the serious medical condition of the affected family member. Some doctor’s offices charge a fee for filling out the forms.

Download the forms here directly from the Department of Labor website.

FMLA Eligibility

The FMLA eligibility criteria consist of three parts: covered employers, employee hours, and reasons for the leave of absence.

  • Covered employers have 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius of the worksite
  • Eligible employees worked 1,250 hours during the last 12 months and have been with the same employer for at least 12 months
  • Viable reason to take the unpaid job-protected leave include the following
    • Birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child
    • Care of a spouse, child, or parent with a serious medical condition
    • An employee’s own serious medical condition such as disability or childbirth

Colorado Family Care Leave Act

Residents of the Centennial State have access to an additional family leave law. The Colorado Family Care Act expands upon the rules set by the FMLA.

The federal FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid time off for workers so that they can care for their child, spouse, or parent. The state law expands the coverage to include blood relatives, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or civil union. The ordinance also helps workers who are caring for someone in a committed relationship (not married).2

Colorado Labor Laws for Pregnancy

Both federal and Colorado state labor laws relating to pregnancy can help qualifying residents in the workplace. There are various employment acts that discourage discrimination against expectant women due to their condition.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects workers nationwide. The PDA makes sure that pregnant women have equal rights as other applicants or employees.

An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman who is able to perform the job’s duties. The PDA also bans discrimination in pay, job assignments, promotions, and other job terms due to an expectant woman’s condition.

Colorado Pregnancy Accommodation Act

The Colorado Pregnant Workers Fairness Act became a law in 2016. The doctrine requires employers to accommodate any medical conditions caused by a pregnancy. The law covers complications that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover.3

For example, the state-based rule requires that employers must make any reasonable accommodations if a pregnant worker requests one. She does not have to have a disabling condition as under the ADA.

The pregnancy fairness act has another added perk. While the ADA is for companies with 15 or more workers, the state’s accommodation rule covers organizations of all sizes.

Colorado Parental Leave – Who Qualifies?

Colorado parental leave policies are not applied in the same way to every worker. Different factors determine eligibility and the length of job-protected time each person might receive.

Results differ for men, college and university employees, and workers at small businesses.

Male Maternity Leave

Colorado does not require paid paternity leave for men. But, there are a few points for new fathers to take into consideration.

  • The laws bar healthy fathers from collecting short-term disability. Spouses cannot use the policy.
  • Laid off fathers can collect unemployment. However, if he quit working to take care of his sick spouse or child, he must wait until he is available to work again.
  • Fathers can take advantage of unpaid time off. The FMLA covers paternity leave for birth, adoption, and care for sick relatives.

University Policy

The FMLA provides job protection rights to teachers and faculty at public and private primary and secondary schools. The program does not cover staff at colleges and universities.

College and university employees should read their institution’s handbook because the rules are not all the same. For example, the Colorado State University maternity leave policy offers three (3) weeks of paid time after childbirth. On the other hand, the University of Colorado parental leave policy lets faculty to use a combination of their personal days and FMLA protections.

Small Business

Colorado small business workers seeking maternity leave are in a gray area. Federal and state-based regulations have varying employee size criteria which include or exclude small businesses of different not apply to companies with fewer than 50 staff members. The state’s anti-discrimination laws are more helpful to small business employees.

Three federal rules might pertain to your small employer.

  1. FMLA applies when 50+ employees work within 75 miles
  2. PDA – 15 or more employees
  3. ADA – 15 + workers

Only one of the Colorado laws cited previously in this article expands rights for small business employees.

  1. Pregnancy Accommodation Act applies to employers of all sizes.
  2. Family Care Leave Act does not alter the employee size criteria for FMLA eligibility


  1. Colorado Unemployment
  2. Family Care Act:
  3. Pregnant Workers Fairness Act