Surrogacy for many of us is an enigma, tarnished with celebrity status and wealth. The reality is that in 2018, 368 parental orders were made in the UK following births via surrogacy.
More recently there has been a growing interest from women around the UK who wish to become surrogates meaning the number of children born via surrogacy could increase. As of 2019 a new law was passed allowing single people, regardless of their gender, to become intended parents through surrogacy.
In this blog post we explore the facts around surrogacy, and teachers’ (as intended parents) rights to attend appointments with their surrogates.
Facts about surrogacy in the UK that you might not have known
- Surrogacy is legal in the UK as long as the surrogate does this for free
- Surrogates may only claim expenses from the Intended Parents
- With the organisation Surrogacy UK, IPs cannot ask a woman to be their surrogate she must offer to do it
- Surrogates select the IPs they wish to help
- IPs need to apply for something called a Parental Order after the child is born
- Upon birth of the child the surrogate is the child’s legal mother
- Upon birth of the child, the surrogate’s husband (if married) will be the legal father
- To apply for a parental order single IPs need to be biologically related to the child
Teacher’s right to attend appointments as an Intended Parent
Your school might have a separate ‘Adoption Leave policy’ with clauses that are different to the below which state that:
- You are entitled to attend 5 paid ‘adoption appointments’
- Your partner is permitted to attend two adoption appointments- unpaid.
A teacher’s experience as an IP
Currently on iPlayer you can watch The Surrogates, a fascinating documentary following the lives of both intended parents and their surrogates. This addictive documentary allows us to have an insight into the fragility of surrogacy and the vulnerability of both parties.
One of the intended parents is teacher of the deaf David Watkins, who at the start of the series we see as a single IP on his path to become a parent. David had a tenacious approach towards surrogacy not letting the disappointments and blocks stop him from achieving the Dad status he longs for.
We see David attending appointments, starting at the fertility clinic where he plays his part in producing a sperm sample to create an embryo with an egg from an unknown donor.
I reached out to David. I was interested to find out what his arrangements were with his employer that allowed him this flexibility.
David told me that his workplace policy meant he was entitled to attend two unpaid appointments, but as he was the only IP he wanted to attend all appointments. Luckily, David was able to do so due to an understanding employer who was supportive of his surrogacy journey.
The Workplace Lottery
This reminded me of ‘The Workplace Lottery’ theory that Flexible Teacher Talent co-founder Lucy Rose spoke to me about recently. We discussed how disempowering it is for an employee to have to hope their headteacher will value their family circumstances, whether this be the need for part-time hours, the marathon of fertility treatment, or something else entirely.
David’s job as a peripatetic teacher worked in his favour as it meant he could write his own timetable so that it worked flexibly around him. The job didn’t come between David and the appointments.
'Avoid being too prescriptive'
At a recent webinar about fertility in the workplace, writer and speaker Helen Beedham, said that employers need to avoid ‘being too prescriptive’ about who can attend appointments. She called to make policies ‘inclusive and family friendly’. It’s certainly true that more schools need family friendly policies that include gender equity and David’s is a prime example why.
David said that had he been ‘class based in a school this would have been almost impossible’ which suggests that there is a stigma towards single men opting to become fathers through surrogacy. That, or policies haven’t been updated to reflect modern day families. In her book The Power of Lift, Melinda Gates writes that the choice is easy, ‘challenge the biases or perpetuate them’. Employers need to consider all regardless of their gender, age and marital status.
For more information about your surrogacy rights as a teacher in the UK see Nasuwt.
David has his own website Dadbe where you can find further information about single parenting in the UK through surrogacy, adoption and fostering.