UNISON battles for equal rights for all mothers

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is taking the fight for mothers whose babies are born through a surrogacy arrangement to the European Court. The union is arguing that intended mothers* should have the same rights under European law as all other mothers in relation to maternity rights. The case CD v ST (C-167/12-1) is being heard by the Grand Chamber of Court of Justice of the European Union sitting in Luxembourg (19 March, 9.30am).

Currently, mothers in the UK whose babies are born via a surrogacy arrangement are not entitled to maternity or adoption leave to bond with and care for their new babies.

The case has been referred directly from the Employment Tribunal in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the Court of Justice for a Preliminary Reference following a claim of sex discrimination brought by UNISON member, CD.

CD’s baby was born through a surrogacy arrangement in August 2011. The role of the Court of Justice is to clarify the protections provided by European law in these circumstances. The case will then be referred back to the domestic Tribunal for determination on the facts once the law has been clarified.

UNISON National Women’s Officer Sharon Greene said:

“Our member is a hard working midwife-sonographer who like any mother wanted the best for her baby. She wants equal rights for mothers like her, whose babies are born through a surrogacy arrangement. In her case she immediately began mothering and breastfeeding her baby at birth and so like any other mother she should have been entitled to equal maternity rights and a period of maternity leave to be able to bond with and care for her baby.

“UNISON is proud to be supporting our member in bringing such an important case for maternity rights.”

UNISON Legal Officer and solicitor for CD, Kate Ewing, said”

“This is an important case which addresses a gap in the law which currently leaves a number of new mothers in the UK without equal rights when their babies are born. The case has the potential to have repercussions not only for women in the UK but also across Europe”.

Notes to Editor

Please note that there is a Restricted Reporting Order in place in this case which prevents the public identification of the Claimant (CD) and disclosure of her name.

* Intended mother: a mother who has a baby through a surrogacy arrangement but has not herself been pregnant or given birth to the child in question. She begins mothering and, (if applicable) breastfeeding the child immediately at birth and assumes full and permanent parental rights following the provision of a Parental Order.

* Surrogate mother: a woman who is pregnant and gives birth to a child on behalf of an Intended Mother. She relinquishes all rights to the child when a Parental Order is made.

* Induced lactation: the process by which a woman who has not recently given birth or given birth at all may breastfeed a baby.

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