While moms across the country were savoring the last few moments of Mother's Day, John Oliver of HBO's Last Week Tonight took to the airwaves to bring attention to one of America's most disturbing statistics — that the United States and Papau New Guinea are the only two countries in the world that don't offer new moms paid time off.
In a 12-minute segment, Oliver reminded viewers that the current Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants just 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and there are even limits on that. You must work for a company with more than 50 employees to even be considered for FMLA, you must be employed full time, and you must work for a company for more than year. "What that means is that 40 percent of workers are not covered under the federal law," he says.
According to Oliver, new moms end up using some creative accounting to get paid while on leave — piecing together sick leave and vacation days. "This is not how it's supposed to work," Oliver exclaims. "Mothers shouldn't have to stitch time together to recover from childbirth the same way that we plan four-day weekends in Atlantic City."
He shows footage from the 2007 documentary The Motherhood Manifesto about a mom who was forced to return to work days after delivering her baby prematurely and a mom who regretfully must return to work a month after welcoming her baby due to financial reasons.
Oliver's arguments — set against politicians' and companies' grandstanding in honor of Mother's Day — is a powerful message for working women and politicians alike. As he concludes, "You can't go on and on about how much you support mothers and then fail to support legislation that makes life easier for them. In fact, until we, as a country, do something to address this, this should be the only message that we're allowed to send on Mother's Day."