There are only two countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave for working women, the United States and Papua New Guinea. While the US ranks second in the world for highest GDP, and Papua New Guinea at 139th, women are not given the same opportunity to start a family as women from other countries and are often faced with the dilemma of motherhood and a career.
America’s current Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 states that full-time workers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, and who work for a company that has at least 50 employees. Unfortunately, most working women in the US are employed by businesses that are not covered by the act and in-turn forces many women to return to work over staying at home with their newborn.
Maternity Leave looks at the limited maternity leave options for American women, and how the perception of a woman’s value in the workforce is impacting mental health and leading to increased poverty rates. The documentary questions US legislation that forces new mothers back to work within weeks of giving birth, depriving both mother and child of precious parental bonds.
The film also takes us on a journey to Sweden – a nation that offer employees 480 paid days of leave. Maternity Leave also compares how American policies compare to that of Papua New Guinea before finally exploring options for potential new mothers, along with how unpaid maternity leave in the United States could be improved.