I am having a baby through a surrogate. Am I entitled to maternity leave and the related benefits?


babyAs the law currently stands, unfortunately the answer is 'no'. Entitlement to either maternity leave or statutory maternity pay does not extend to people who have a baby through a surrogate – these benefits are available exclusively to employees who give birth. However, there is a growing wave of people who believe that the law on surrogacy is in urgent need of reform, especially as mothers whose babies are born through surrogacy require just as much support as birth mothers do. What’s more, both leave and pay are available to qualifying adoptive parents.

If, after the birth, you plan to adopt the baby through an approved adoption agency then you may be entitled to adoption leave and pay. In order to qualify you must have worked for your employer for at least six months by the end of the week in which you are notified by the adoption agency that the child will be placed with you. Adoption leave can be taken for up to 52 weeks and adoption pay is available for 39 weeks – some employers even allow for more.

Once the baby has been born, you might also qualify for other types of leave. Parental leave is a right for working parents to take unpaid time off to look after a child under the age of five (18 if the child is disabled). To qualify, you must have a minimum of one year's continuous service with your employer. You can take 13 weeks leave per child before the child’s fifth birthday but no more than four weeks leave can be taken in any one year. You don’t need to offer any special reason for taking parental leave – provided the main purpose is to look after your child’s welfare. You also have a right to take unpaid time off during working hours to deal with emergencies or other unforeseen events which affect your child or other dependants.

This Q&A was originally published in the Financial Times.

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