Adoptive Parents now eligible for leave from work

Past photo of President Uhuru Kenyatta signing a bill into law at State House Nairobi

By Ivy Maloy

Parents who are in the process of adopting children will now be eligible for a month of leave from work.

This is according to the new amendments to the Employment Act signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta that seeks to give parents enough time to make the necessary arrangements. Parents going through an adoption process will now notify their employers of the intention at least 14 days before the adoption date together with relevant adoption documents.

The changes however, exclude parents of children born through surrogacy after President Uhuru Kenyatta declined the provision on grounds that Kenya lacks a substantive legal framework to protect all parties within the surrogacy arrangement.

The head of state further observed that surrogacy touches on children, reproductive rights and the concept of family. “There is need to first put in place a rigorous substantive legal and regularly framework to protect all parties within the surrogacy agreement,” the President said in the message read by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi on Tuesday. He directed the bill to be reconsidered by the Labor Committee but would require two-thirds of members to overturn the president’s veto.

The National Assembly failed to Marshall a two-thirds majority to overturn the President’s memorandum to the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2019 sponsored by Gilgil MP Martha Wangari.

The Bill sought to provide two months leave to mothers of a child born as a result of surrogacy and two weeks’ paternity leave to fathers.

The House approved the President’s memorandum through a simple majority at the Committee of the Whole House without any debate, handing employers a huge reprieve from costs associated with maternity and paternity leave.

The Bill which has now been signed into law, had on November 2, 2020 been returned to Parliament with a memorandum asking MPs to amend Clause 3 of the Bill by deleting sub-clauses (4), (5) and (6).

In rejecting the Bill, the President cited the absence of a substantive legal and regulatory framework governing surrogacy in Kenya.

Kenya lacks a law on surrogacy, a method of assisted child birth where parents commission a woman to give birth on their behalf. Under the current law, a child born through a surrogacy still needs to be adopted through a court process.

The pre-adoptive leave targeted to benefit parents who commission other women to carry babies on their behalf, bringing them in the same bracket with those who nurse their own pregnancy.

Kenya’s law allows a fully paid, two-week paternity break for fathers and a three-month maternity leave for those who nurse their own pregnancies.

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