People who have children through surrogacy should be eligible for maternity leave, says HSE forum member

A member of the HSE West’s regional health forum says it is wrong that HSE employees who have a child through surrogacy are not eligible for statutory maternity leave.

City councillor and forum member Cllr Padraig Conneely raised the issue at a meeting of the forum at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

He said more and more people were opting for surrogacy and he had met a number of these. While adoptive parents working in the public service are eligible for statutory adoptive leave, this is not the case with people who go the surrogacy route.

He believed it was wrong that they were refused maternity leave. He accepted that the health authority’s hands were tied in this regard but wondered “how do we move this on quickly?” The Fine Gael councillor said legislation might take two to three years and asked if anything could be done to “relax” it.

In a written reply, Ann Cosgrove, the chief operating officer with Saolta University Health Care Group (which runs the local public hospitals ) said the HSE’s Corporate Employee Relations Service (CERS ) which provides guidance and advice on matters relating to staff entitlements, advised UHG’s human resource department in November that surrogacy was currently unregulated in Ireland. However, there is considerable work under way to develop a legislative framework.

“The Department of Health has responsibility for developing legislation in this area and CERS understands that they are currently drafting the General Scheme of Legislative Provisions on Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR ) and associated research, which will include provisions relating to surrogacy.”

She outlined that it was envisaged that this scheme would be completed in the coming months. Then, a memo will be submitted for Government approval. Once approved, it is understood that the Minister will submit the scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health for pre-legislative scrutiny.

The Department of Justice and Equality intend to examine the issue of family law entitlements (to include same sex couples who conceive a child through surrogacy ) once the Department has introduced the primary legislation on surrogacy.

Ms Cosgrove said Saolta enquired if there were any provisions under the Maternity or Adoptive Acts in respect of a child born to a surrogate.

“The advice received was that, in the public health service (and public service in general ), only employees who come within the scope of the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 - 2005 are eligible for statutory adoptive leave and payment under the current Department of Health scheme.”

Speaking at the forum meeting, she added that Saolta would be “supportive of a scheme to support such staff” but the authority’s hands were currently tied.

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