Legislation giving important new employment rights to parents through surrogacy has officially become law in the UK. The Children and Families Act 2014, which now has royal assent, will from 2015 give employment protection, leave and pay (equivalent to maternity rights) to UK parents having children born through surrogacy.
The new rights will be a form of adoption leave, which essentially means that intended parents can choose which of them gets the main leave (equivalent to maternity leave) and which of them gets the secondary leave (equivalent to paternity leave). The rights to pay will be the same as for other new parents, and there will be new options to share leave which are being introduced for all parents.
The new law will apply to heterosexual and same sex couples who have a child through surrogacy, provided they intend to apply for a parental order. The rules will come into force for babies born on or after 5 April 2015 - broadly speaking covering anyone conceiving this summer onwards. The existing rights for surrogates to claim maternity leave as birth mothers will not be affected.
Although the law has now passed, the regulations which will set out the working detail (including the rules on how and when to claim) are still being discussed. We are happy to be supporting this process and working with civil servants on the detail of the regulations as part of our campaigning work.
Natalie says: "It is widely recognised that new parents need time off work to bond with their child. Until now, those conceiving through surrogacy fell into a gap, not eligible for maternity leave because they were not pregnant and not eligible for adoption leave because there was no adoption agency matching. This important step forward corrects an injustice and ensures that parents through surrogacy have the same rights as all other new parents. It marks the end of a long campaign involving many committed people who have spoken out and challenged the issue publicly, in court and in Parliament. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills is now working hard to finalise the detail."
As a footnote, the new UK legislation has become law in the same week that the European Court of Justice has announced its decision that EU law does not give a right to maternity leave to mothers conceiving through surrogacy. The decision is a shame, as it might have benefited our friends across Europe. But the ECJ cannot prevent European countries giving those rights to its own residents if they wish to. On that front at least, it's good to know that the UK is ahead of the curve.