Former shadow health secretary Mr John Healey has called for mothers of children conceived using a surrogate to be given equal maternity pay, leave and rights as other mothers. Currently mothers who use surrogates are entitled to 13 weeks unpaid leave, in contrast to mothers who adopt or conceive themselves, who are entitled to 52 weeks leave with 39 weeks maternity pay.
'There are probably about 100 children born in this country each year by surrogate mums. The number is growing, society is changing and the law needs to catch up', said Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne. 'Maternity rights are there to help mothers and their newly born babies through the earliest months of the child's life, when time together is most needed'.
Healey raised this disparity in maternity rights in the House of Commons, following the case of his local constituent Mrs Jane Kassim, who recently had twin girls through surrogacy. Kassim, who works as a teaching assistant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was informed that she would not be entitled to standard maternity leave and pay as she had used a surrogate. Furthermore, she would require parental rights to be transferred over from the surrogate after the birth, before she would be entitled to 13 weeks unpaid leave.
'Surely there must be a good case for Britain, like some states in the USA to have a system of pre-birth orders. But the first and most important step is to secure basic maternity rights so that mothers like Jane who have their children born through surrogates have the same rights as any other mothers who give birth themselves or indeed who adopt children', said Healey.
The 'legal loophole' highlighted by Healey was put forth in a Ten Minute Rule Bill - a means by which new legislation can be introduced to Parliament. This bill was unopposed and has therefore been listed for a second reading where it will be given further consideration. A spokesman for Rotherham Borough Council said: 'Clearly we would welcome any changes to legislation which would benefit families and children'.