Feeling clucky? What will they say at work? Katherine Cowan asks two new lesbian mothers to share their experiences.
Lesbians have been having babies forever, but the concept of two mums can still be confusing for some. A pregnant female employee requesting maternity leave is no surprise. But what about a female employee who isn’t pregnant requesting time off to be with her new baby? The law is clear: if eligible, the non-birth mother can take paternity leave.
Claire, a university lecturer, and Samantha, a graphic designer, recently had their first baby. Birth-mother Claire requested her maternity leave 12 weeks into the pregnancy. “There are quite a few other same sex couples at work so it wasn’t a shock. My team have met Sam a few times, so they are used to us as a couple.”
Meanwhile, Samantha applied for paternity leave: “It’s one week full pay, one week statutory, but my employer let me take the second week as annual leave so I didn’t lose salary,” she explains. “I’m the first openly gay person in my office to have this situation so people were quite inquisitive, in a good way! They’ve been great with me attending hospital appointments and with working flexible hours throughout the whole pregnancy and post-birth.”
Employers should ensure their maternity and paternity leave policies are up to date and explicitly include same-sex partners. Recent legal changes mean it’s easier than ever for lesbians to conceive in a way which suits them, so the number of gay birth and non-birth mums in the workplace may well increase. Employers should treat them the same as any other parent: with respect, sensitivity and in accordance with the law.
Katherine Cowan is an independent diversity consultant.
Gay Mums UK: www.gaymums.org.uk
London Women’s Clinic: www.lwclinic.co.uk/gen/lesbian_single.php