past event
Workforce Development

Time to Care: A Discussion on Improving Paid Leave Policies for Workers, Businesses, and Our Economy

Audio (MP3)

To download, click here.

About the Event

Many working Americans today must regularly choose between earning a paycheck or caring for themselves and their loved ones. Over 40 million working Americans lack paid sick days. Many of these workers not only forgo earnings, but also risk losing their jobs to stay at home to care for their children or themselves as they recover from short-term illnesses, such as the flu. Frequently employed in areas such as food service, retail sales, nursing homes and child-care facilities, these workers, when working sick, not only jeopardize their own health, but potentially that of the patients, customers and colleagues with whom they interact.

Longer leave needed for serious medical issues or the birth of a new child is an even more difficult issue. The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to covered workers and has been used over 100 million times since its inception. But since this leave is unpaid, many cannot afford to take it.

In addition, only a little more than half of the U.S. workforce is covered by FMLA since establishments with 50 or fewer employees are not covered by the law, and workers need to meet job tenure and hours worked requirements before becoming eligible. This situation is not only bad news for workers and customers, businesses themselves may experience decreased worker productivity and increased worker turnover when employees must put work ahead of health and family. As this issue gains attention, a number of states and localities are implementing or exploring paid sick or family leave laws.

In this conversation, panelists will discuss challenges faced by workers, parents and employers in managing this issue and explore ideas for practices and policies that can better support the workforce, families, and the economy.


Featured speakers

Ellen Bravo
Executive director, Family Values @ Work

Alison Earle
Senior research scientist, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

John Feehery
President of communications and director of public affairs, Quinn Gillespie and Associates

Makini Howell
Owner and chef, Plum Bistro Restaurants



Brigid Schulte
Social issues reporter, The Washington Post


Related resources

Fact Sheet on Paid Sick and Family Medical Leave in the United States


This event is part of the Working in America series, an ongoing discussion series hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program that highlights an array of critical issues affecting low- and moderate-income workers in the United States and ideas for improving and expanding economic opportunities for working people. For more information, visit




Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #talkgoodjobs.

Event information
Tue Jan 28, 2014
12:00pm - 12:00pm GMT+0000
Washington, DC, United States