Currently pregnant employees have a statutory right to reasonable paid time off during working hours to attend antenatal appointments. This is a right which employees are entitled to from day one of employment. The employee wishing to take time off for antenatal appointments should give as much notice as possible and after the first appointment you can ask the employee to provide evidence of the appointment, for example by showing you an appointment card.
Fathers are currently not legally entitled to take any time off to attend antenatal appointments with their partner. Many fathers who wish to attend these appointments use holiday to cover time away from work.
Earlier this year the Government announced the new Children and Families Act 2014. Part of this includes allowing an employee, with a qualifying relationship to a pregnant woman, to take time off work to attend two antenatal appointments. This right will come into force on 1st October this year. Earlier this week the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills released a guide for employers relating to the leave, providing more detail on how this will work.
An employee has a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman if the employee is:
- the baby’s father;
- the pregnant woman’s husband, civil partner or partner; or
- an intended parent of a child in surrogacy arrangement, if they intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child.
A qualifying employee will be able to request unpaid leave to attend up to two antenatal appointments with a pregnant woman. An employee may take a maximum of six and a half hours per appointment, including travelling and waiting time either side of the appointment. If an employee would like to take more time off than this, he may do so by requesting annual leave as per company policy.
When an employee requests time off to attend antenatal appointments, you can request that the employee signs a declaration stating; the qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman, the purpose of taking the time off is to attend an antenatal appointment, the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse, and the date and time of the appointment.
You may refuse the request of the employee to take time off, so long as the refusal is reasonable. To avoid such refusals, employees should make the requests in plenty of time. The right for the time off is to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment; the right is not to attend the appointment. The pregnant woman may refuse to have a person present.
The Children and Families Act 2014 will bring forward more changes in April 2015 with Shared Parental Leave. Needless to say we’ll keep you posted.
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