PoliticsHome | Only the latest five entries on the PhiWire are visible to non-subscribers
- Sign up to see last 24 hours
Dont have an account?Sign up here
Tuesday 17th April 2012 | 07:00
When Jane Kassim heard her cousin Amy was pregnant it was the news she and her husband Adis had been longing for. Jane had been told at 15 she could never carry children, and Amy had agreed to be a surrogate for their baby.
Like any other mother she began to make preparations for the birth.
She asked her employer for maternity leave, and was stunned to find out a few weeks later that she had no legal right to maternity leave or pay. She had fully expected to take up to 52 weeks off and get 39 weeks’ pay, just as mothers who have their own babies or adopt are able to do.
Today is a first step towards trying to close this legal loophole. I’m introducing a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons calling for mothers like Jane who have babies through surrogates to have equal leave, pay and allowance arrangements.
Mothers who have children this way nearly always start to care for their baby full-time soon after the birth. Like any other mum, they need protected time off to help them and their new-born during the earliest months of life, when time together is most needed.
But unlike other mums, Jane is only entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave, and only after she and her husband have a parental order in place passing legal responsibility and rights to them from Amy. This order cannot be applied for until the baby is six weeks old and the process – which is dependent on the workload of local magistrates – can take weeks and even months.
So many mums in this situation face the difficult choice of going back to work very quickly or giving up their jobs entirely.
Good employers who can afford to do so may grant leave on a discretionary basis, but this is usually unpaid and there is no obligation to provide this. It is also costly for them because they are unable to claim any contribution from public funds.
Other less fortunate mums-to-be are forced to involve a solicitor and enter difficult negotiations with their bosses.
Meanwhile, the surrogate mother enjoys full maternity rights extending long after the birth.
Thanks to Amy – who gave birth to twin girls around a month ago – Jane and Adis are now the proud parents of twins Ivy and Isla. Both their own biological children. And fortunately Jane’s employer has been understanding and is allowing her the time off she needs, though she won’t receive any pay.
Surrogate births may not be that common – there are probably up to 100 a year – but the number is growing as society is changing.
The European Court of Justice is set to hear the case of a British woman who had a baby through a surrogate but was refused maternity leave by her employer.
Pressure on the Government to right this obvious unfairness will only increase, and I hope my Bill today and the backing I have from MPs of all parties will hasten this necessary change in the law.
Labour Party Political Broadcast for 2013 elections 19/04/13
UKIP Party Political Broadcast for 2013 elections 19/04/13
Green Party Political Broadcast for 2013 elections 19/04/13
Conservative Party Political Broadcast for 2013 elections 19/04/13
Lib Dem Party Political Broadcast for 2013 elections 19/04/13