Surrogacy and egg donation organisation Brilliant Beginnings is calling for an urgent review of the laws surrounding maternity leave for surrogate parents.
At the moment maternity leave in the UK is extended to apply to intended parents of surrogate children, allowing them the same amount of time away from work for the same paying rate as a birthing mother or father. Each set of parents is entitled to one long period of leave (equal to maternity leave) and one shorter period of leave (equal to paternity leave) to distribute between them.
But Brilliant Beginnings says that the rules may need to be adjusted as they do nothing to help international surrogacy parents, who may be intended to claim a child overseas.
Natalie Gamble, fertility lawyer and co-founder of Brilliant Beginnings, explains that in many cases, parents are required to travel overseas to their child’s home country to collect them. This requires time off work and sometimes accommodation for up to four or five months whilst paperwork and passport applications are being sorted out.
However, in the UK, maternity leave for surrogacy parents is only expected to start either on the date the child is born (in the case of same country surrogacy) or from the date that the child crosses the UK borders (in the case of overseas surrogacy).
For surrogate parents of international children, this means they may be unable to claim maternity pay for the time they spend in their child’s home country applying for his or her British passport. Seeing as they are not likely to be able to work during this time, the circumstances may lead to a job leave situation for one or both parents, leading to further financial instability.
Natalie Gamble says:[quote]For those who become parents through international surrogacy, starting surrogacy leave from entry into the UK is a disaster. It means that the new rights will, in most international cases, give no benefit at all.
Children born through surrogacy become their parents’ responsibility immediately from birth, unlike adopted children who are looked after by others until the adoptive parents are ready to bring them home.”[/quote]
Brilliant Beginnings is now appealing to the Government to review the new surrogacy rules before they are ratified through the Children and Families Act 2014. It is encouraging the government to ensure that employment leave starts from the child’s birth in all cases – not just those where the child is born in the UK.
As Ms. Gamble pointed out:[quote]Would you ask any other mother to defer her maternity leave until her child was five years old?”[/quote] [quote]Surrogacy is not adoption, and we need some common sense applied.”[/quote]