From 1 October 2014, your staff will have a new right to take time off work to attend ante natal appointments with their partner or wife or as specified below.
Who has the right?
An employee or agency worker who has a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman or her expected child will be entitled to take time off during their working hours to accompany the woman to antenatal appointments.
Meaning of “qualifying relationship”
An employee or agency worker has a qualifying relationship with a woman or her expected child if:
- They are the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner.
- They live with the woman (whether in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship) in an enduring family relationship and are not a relative of the woman.
- They are the expected child’s father.
- They are one of a same-sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under the assisted reproduction provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA 2008).
- They are the potential applicant for a parental order under the HFEA 2008 in relation to a child who is expected to be born to a surrogate mother.
What is the right?
The right is for unpaid time off to attend up to two ante-natal appointments, each of up to a maximum of six and a half hours. There is no qualifying period of employment for employees to have this right so it will be available to relevant employees from the start of their employment. Relevant agency workers will have this right after they have completed a 12 week qualifying period in the same job with their hirer. Employees and agency workers will be protected from being treated to their detriment and dismissal as a result of exercising these rights.
How to make the request
There are no formalities for a person exercising the right, unless their employer requires them to do so. In which case, the employee or agency worker will not be entitled to take time off unless they give their employer a document, which could be an e-mail showing:
- they have a “qualifying relationship”;
- the purpose of the time off is to attend an antenatal appointment;
- the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered doctor, registered midwife or registered nurse; and
- the date and time of the appointment.
Is this a right to paid time off work?
No, there is no express right to be paid for the time taken to attend an ante natal appointment with a woman. So, any payment for the time off would be discretionary or as a result of a contractual obligation.
What if an employer refuses this right?
An employer may refuse a request to have time off to accompany a woman to an ante natal appointment where it is reasonable to do so. But, an employee or agency worker who is unreasonably refused time off for this reason may bring an employment tribunal claim.
Further changes to rights of parents
Further changes affecting families are scheduled to take place in 2015, including the new system of shared parental leave which will be available to parents of children due to be born or placed for adoption with them on or after 5 April 2015.