June is Pride month, if you proudly display the word ‘inclusive’ on your company pages/ mission statement or workplace strategy I urge you to read this blog because my experience as an HR professional in this space is telling me the topic of LGBTQ+ Family Building remains largely untapped and acknowledged.
You’d be forgiven if you were not familiar with the term, ‘Intended parents’ mainly because in the grand scheme of things there aren’t that many; but what is interesting is that there are triple the amount there were 10 years ago.
An ‘intended parent’ is someone who is building their family via third party reproduction with a surrogacy agreement and the only way male same sex couples can have a child that is genetically related to them.
The most famous person to be an ‘Intended parent’ is arguably Kim Kardashian and very, very recently, Paris Hilton and as I write this today, Tom Daley has just announced that he has become a father for the second time with his husband Dustin Black. Before them, Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, Monica in Friends! This is not, however, an option just for the rich and the famous. As we stretch and broaden in society, it is no longer an impossibility for people who cannot biologically have a child of their own to remain that way. They have options.
I work in the field of HR so am familiar with terms of employment, statutory entitlements and how to operate in the realms of the law and, more importantly and often overlooked, how to apply common sense. What I am continuously shocked by though is the huge absence of knowledge, not only in my profession but across the board, about surrogacy and how to manage it in the workplace. I am privileged enough to have been educated in this space by the wonderful team at ‘My Surrogacy Journey’ but there is such a huge amount of work to do in further education on this topic and this is why:
- Since same sex marriage became legal in the UK in 2014 there have been more than 15,000 recorded marriages.
- With the increase in marriages has come an increase in people wanting to have babies of their own.
- For male same sex couples having a baby themselves is biologically impossible. Surrogacy remains the only viable route to enable this to happen.
- It is important to note it is NOT just something male same sex couples explore, people who are unable to carry a pregnancy for a variety of reasons also use surrogacy to have a baby.
Other data tells us that:
- The UK’s first sexual orientation and gender identity census showed that 3.2% of the 44.9 million people surveyed identified as Gay/Lesbian. As society is changing more same-sex couples are having families of their own.
- Data published by the Ministry of Justice on 24 June 2021 tells us how many Parental Orders have been granted to applicants in the family courts of England and Wales from 2011 until the end of the first quarter of 2021. The data show a gradual increase in the number of POs being granted, from 117 POs in 2011, to 413 in 2020, with a peak of 444 in 2019. New Surrogacy legislation is set to remove the need for applying for Parental orders, instead a new regulatory route is proposed for domestic surrogacy arrangements, under which intended parents would become parents of the child from birth, rather than wait for months to obtain a parental order.
By stark contrast, there is NO increase in knowledge or understanding about surrogacy and why it is used, and the ignorance just continues to consume the workplace. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the real-life comments and questions from people I have spoken to about their experiences at work:
- Do I need to share my maternity leave with my surrogate, as my line manager said this is what will happen?
- Am I entitled to any time off as I have been told by my employer it will all have to be unpaid?
- Our maternity and paternity provision is enhanced but our adoption provision isn’t, I’ve been told this is just how it is and there are no plans to change it.
- In a work policy: ‘Surrogate parents may take unpaid parental leave’.
- The forms to apply for leave don’t work for me and my surrogacy situation, I’ve been told just to ‘make it work.’
Whilst some of these comments may appear to be ill thought out and careless, there is a distinct theme present in that workplaces are remaining ignorant to the need to place this on their EDI agenda.
If you want to learn more about surrogacy and how it can be supported via workplace conversation, policy and training please contact me at Claire@fertilitymattersatwork.com.