Time off for Ante-natal Appointments
As of today, 1st October 2014, the right to attend ante-natal appointments has been extended from applying to only employed pregnant women to other expectant parents. This extended right will apply to any employee, regardless of their length of service, who is in a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or the expected child. These relationships include:-
- The pregnant woman’s spouse or civil partner;
- The father of the expected child;
- An individual living with the pregnant woman in an enduring family relationship but who is not a relative (ie. not a parent, sibling, etc.); or
- The intended parent of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to, and intend to apply for, a parental order in respect of the expected child.
These individuals will have the right to time off to attend 2 appointments, each lasting no more than 6½ hours. This is a right to unpaid time off but employers may choose to allow additional time off, or to pay the employee during these absences.
The Department for Business Innovation & Skills have published an Employer Guide which answers a number of questions employers may have concerning this extended right and sets out the evidence they may request from an employee before granting the request for time off. This evidence includes receiving a signed declaration confirming that the individual has a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman, that the purpose of taking the time off is to accompany the pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment which was made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, as well as the details of the appointment itself.
If an employer unreasonably refuses a request for time off, an Employment Tribunal may award compensation at the rate of twice the hourly rate for the period during which the employee would have been absent had the time off been granted. Employers should therefore tread carefully when considering any request for time off if they wish to refuse the request. Employers should also be aware that employees must not suffer a detriment as a result of making a request for time off to attend ante-natal appointments, and that any dismissal of an employee who takes, or seeks to take time off for this purpose will be treated, automatically, as an unfair dismissal.