Just a few hundred years back, the responsibility of raising a baby was solely bestowed to the mother and/or other females of the house. Times changed. Women now equally participate in the workforce and we have come to realize both parents’ contribution in a child’s upbringing.
Thanks to the progress of our society, many countries have granted parental leave for both parents with a newborn or newly adopted baby. But this gets a bit puzzling for parents pursuing surrogacy for family building.
There have been many cases where the intended parents were denied parental leave by their employer because there’s no clear legislation in this matter. This brings us to the next question:
Why Should We Care?
The definition of a family has changed in the new era. More and more couples are going for assisted reproductive technologies to overcome infertility issues. Same sex family is a norm today.
Surrogacy, since its inception in the 80s, has proven itself as a reliable family building method for these intended parents who would otherwise live childless.
According to a report, about 750 babies are born via gestational surrogacy each year in the US. Another report showed that the number of parents from England and Wales pursuing surrogacy has risen four times in the last decade. The numbers are projected to keep going up in the coming days.
Given so many babies born through surrogacy, shouldn’t there be a clear regulation regarding parental leave for these fathers and mothers?
Logic, common sense and our human conscience says, Yes! The sooner the better.
These real stories reveal the complexity
Case 1 – Year 2013:
Marybeth Walz, an executive of Verizon for 17 years, approached the HR department and applied for maternity leave. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer which required her to undergo hysterectomy. To have a baby, Walz partnered with a gestational carrier who became pregnant using the frozen eggs from Walz. Clearly, the baby was genetically related to Walz.
However, when the Verizon HR dept. heard that she was becoming a parent via surrogacy, her paid leave application was rejected. The reason being that the company’s terms said that the leave is allowed for bonding with a naturally born baby or adopted baby. It does not mention anything about surrogate born babies.
Later on, Walz had to apply for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, sell her house to afford the unpaid leave. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part is that both her surrogate babies demised and she was informed about her demotion to a lower-level position.
Case 2 – Year 2011:
Kara Krill gave birth to her first child in 2007 and then developed Asherman’s Syndrome which prevented her from conceiving again. As a result, Krill and her husband teamed up with a gestational carrier to give birth to their second child. She then applied for paid maternal leave to her employer, Cubist Pharmaceuticals.
The HR analyst informed her that she is not entitled for any paid leave under Cubist’s maternity leave policy but she can apply for five days of paid leave under Cubist’s adoption leave policy. When Krill went on to sue the company for discriminatory treatments, she mentioned that her supervisor also verbally harassed her while discussing the matter.
Remember that Cubist Pharmaceuticals was listed in the “Top Places to Work in Massachusetts” by the Boston Globe.
There are many other similar cases to name. A woman in Kerala, India was denied maternity leave by her government-run firm as the baby was born to a surrogate. Jane Kassim from South Yorkshire, U.K. got her maternity leave application declined because she was having a baby with the help of a gestational carrier.
Now these are the cases that made headlines and all of them are women. But surely, there are many more scenarios like this and some involve single fathers and same-sex couples for whom, surrogacy is the only way to have a baby.
What We Should Do
Parenthood, in any form, is a blessing. It is the very thing that ensures continuation of our species. Then how can we recognize and celebrate one method becoming parents while the other is outright ignored and rejected?
Perhaps it is time that we all come together, as individuals and corporations, and rethink the very intention of providing parental leave – allowing the parents to bond with the baby.
Parents who had a baby with the help of a surrogate also need to spend time with their babies. And maybe they would need more than the natural pregnancies since the mother was not carrying the baby by herself which creates an intimate bonding naturally.
For Both Father And Mother?
Parenthood calls for equal responsibilities from both the parents. Once you bring a baby home, both you and your partner need to spend time with the newest family member.
A parenthood through surrogacy isn’t different in this matter. Whether surrogate born or not, the baby needs its parents close to get familiar with his/her home and family.
This means that parenthood via surrogacy should be included in the Shared Parental Leave policies in both corporate books and government laws.
Thankfully, some countries (like Finland) and corporations (such as Aviva) have already recognized this matter and are offering equal parental leave for the mother and father of the baby.
How To Approach Your Company
You will have to break the news eventually. So we recommend doing it early.
Your employer may not have a robust parental leave regulation regarding surrogacy, but if you inform them early, they will have time to consider.
Sit down with your spouse and determine what level of leave you are looking into. Also, go through the current law and regulation in your country or state and see how it can be leveraged. If needed, consult a legal expert.
Now, talking to your employer face-to-face is the best. Remember, your case could be the first in your organization so it might surprise your employers at first. Approach them when they are not on a busy schedule. Set aside some time to discuss your parental leave plan.
Hopefully, your boss will understand the situation and given time, they will be able to help you.
Parental leave should be fundamental rights for all parents worldwide. It is a moral and ethical responsibility for a country and the employers that new parents can spend quality time with their infant.
Remember that surrogacy itself is still a new concept. While some corporate houses are starting to recognize that surrogacy is also a valid way of becoming parents, we still have a long way to go. We can hope this will change soon through combined efforts.