Hillary Clinton Uses Her Time off to Address Paid Sick Leave

September 15th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Hillary Clinton returned to the campaign trail Thursday after spending a few days recovering from a bout of pneumonia.

The Democratic presidential nominee used her health problem to point out at a North Carolina campaign stop that many Americans don't have the luxury of taking time off work because of illness, Talking Points Memo reported.


It was a clever political maneuver, but Clinton's remarks raised an important point about paid sick leave in the United States.

"I want you to think with me for a minute about how I certainly feel lucky, when I'm under the weather, I can afford to take a few days off," Clinton said. "Millions of Americans can't. They either go to work sick, or they lose a paycheck, don't they? Lots of Americans still don't even have insurance, or they do, but it's too expensive for them to actually use. So they toss back some Tylenol, they chug orange juice and hope that the cough or the virus goes away on its own."


"That's why I got into this race," Clinton added. "I am running for everyone working hard to support their families. Everyone who's been knocked down but gets back up."

Before Clinton's address, librarian Anna Clutterbuck-Cook said in a prescient tweet that Clinton's illness provided an opportunity to address paid sick leave in America.

America is one of the only developed nations in the world whose citizens do not all receive paid sick leave, the BBC reported.

A map from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center — an organization that conducts research on health, well-being, and policy — illustrates how America's stance on sick days compares to those of other nations.



America's crummy sick leave policies have been tied to cultural norms in which people are expected to simply "push through" illness, The Washington Post reported:

"Going to work sick is not just a function of political work, however, or even of merely being human — it is a profoundly American behavior.

"In 2014, the public health and safety nonprofit NSF International found that 26 percent of American workers regularly go to work when under the weather, or about 39 million people in today’s labor market. Twenty-five percent of those who do so told NSF that their bosses expected it of them; 37 percent said they couldn’t afford to take the time off. A second 2014 study, conducted by Brian Gifford and Kimberly Jinnett of the Integrated Benefits Institute, arrived at similar findings: Twenty-one percent of people who went to work sick couldn’t afford to miss hours; 23 percent said their workload was too heavy to allow it; 9 percent said they 'fear[ed] negative consequences.'"

Many American companies provide a limited number of sick days as a company benefit, but that rarely applies to low-income workers, the BBC reported.

ATTN: reported previously that a 2015 study surveyed fast food workers and found that a majority reported they "always" or "frequently" came to work when they felt ill.

The District of Columbia and five states — California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Connecticut, and New York — have laws requiring paid sick leave for workers, Slate reported.

Twenty-six cities and one county also have adopted paid sick leave policies, according to a report by the labor advocacy group A Better Balance.

The United States isn't alone in offering scant compensation to workers who've taken ill. 

The U.K. offers only a flat rate of about £88 ($116.56) a week for up to 28 weeks, the BBC reported.


Meanwhile, employees in the Netherlands can take as much as two years off work because of illness, while receiving 70 percent of their normal salary, the employment agency Glassdoor reported.

Clinton has proposed a policy of 12 weeks of paid medical leave for both sick employees and those who need to take care of a new child or ailing family member.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) praised Clinton's policies in a series of tweets.

[h/t Talking Points Memo]