All pregnant employees have a legal right to time off with pay to keep appointments for antenatal care, made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor.
From 1st October 2011, ‘agency workers’ will also be entitled to paid time-off for antenatal appointments once they have 12 weeks service.
In addition, from 1st October 2014, prospective fathers/partners of pregnant women and intended parents in surrogacy arrangements, have the right to take time off to accompany their partner to two antenatal appointments. Employees don’t need a minimum length of service to have this right (this is a day one right). This also applies to agency workers with 12 weeks service. There is no legal right to paid time off and the time off to attend appointments will be for a maximum of 6.5 hours on each occasion.
‘Fathers’ must provide reasonable notice of these appointments but there’s no need (legally) to provide evidence of the appointment, although an Employer can ask for a signed declaration of the date/time of the appointment and what relationship the employee/agency worker has with the pregnant woman or expected child.
Employees will have the right to bring claims to an Employment Tribunal if their employer unreasonably refuses to let them take time-off for this purpose (and compensation would be awarded at twice the normal hourly rate for the period when the employee would’ve been entitled to be absent); in the case of agency workers, the Tribunal will split liability between the agency and the end-hirer depending on the extent to which each was at fault. An employee/agency worker can also seek compensation if they’re subjected to a detriment for taking or asking to take time off. A dismissal of an employee for taking, or asking to take, time off will be treated automatically as an unfair dismissal.
The government have issues guidance on these appointments for employers (which we must admit we haven’t yet read) but apparently it answers the tricky questions of:
- What if the ‘father’ is expecting a baby with two different women at the same time? He has the right to accompany each women to two appointments
- What if the ‘husband’ and ‘father’ are two different people? Both have the right to attend antenatal appointments.
In addition, from 5th April 2015, there’ll be a new entitlement to paid time off to attend adoption appointments. The primary adopter will be able to have paid time off to attend up to five pre-adoption appointments; the secondary adopter will be entitled to unpaid time off to attend up to two pre-adoption appointments. Each appointment must be no longer than 6.5 hours time off work on each occasion. Employees who suffer a detriment or dismissal in relation to taking time off for adoption appointments will be protected under unfair dismissal laws.
Antenatal care may include relaxation classes and parent-craft classes. Except for the first appointment, the employee must show the employer, if requested, a certificate from a registered medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor, confirming the pregnancy together with an appointment card or some other document showing that an appointment has been made.
You’re protected from detriment or unfair dismissal for exercising your right to take antenatal appointments.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk (click here) - a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses - you can retain us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.