European MPs will vote later this month on whether both partners in a lesbian couple should be entitled to maternity and paternity leave.
Proposals have gone before the European Parliament that will give MEPs the chance to grant two weeks’ leave to gay second mothers if their partners give birth. This follows an amendment to European Commission proposals on “paternity/co-maternity parental rights”,by the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee. The proposals include clauses that reflect “different types of family structures” including same-sex couples.
Labour MEP Mary Honeyball said: “It’s a truly groundbreaking piece of legislation. But once you have said that same-sex couples can adopt, the next step is to give them the same co-maternity rights. It’s logical.”
However, any EU legilsation on this issue may have little impact in the UK, commented Jane Anderson, solicitor at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin.
“Under current legislation in England and Wales,”the right to paternity leave is granted to the father of the child, or the partner of the child’s mother or adopter. ‘Partner’ includes a partner of the same sex, so as currently drafted the legislation governing such rights in England and Wales does not need to be altered should these proposals come into effect.
“In a situation regarding a lesbian couple, the biological father (ie, the donor) will not be able to benefit from the same rights as the second gay mother as he is not classed as a partner for the purpsoes of existing legislation.”
Anderson added that employers must “consider requests from same-sex partners in exactly the same way they deal with requests from biological fathers or male partners of women who may not be the biological father of the child, and give equal consideration to them, or risk falling foul of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.”
Nevertheless, it is likely that Conservative MEPs will vote against the EU proposals. Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP, Conservative employment spokesman in Brussels, said: “The EU should not be dictating to any British mothers and fathers how much leave they must take.”