New Right To Attend Ante Natal Appointments
From 1 October 2014 fathers and a pregnant woman’s partner will have a New Right To Attend Ante Natal Appointments with the pregnant woman.
So what is the new right?
The right will be available to an employee or qualifying agency worker who has a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman or her expected child. This covers the following:
- The pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner.
- The pregnant woman’s partner (including same sex partner) who are in an enduring family relationship with her.
- The father of the expected child.
- One of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under assisted reproduction legislation.
- The potential applicant for a parental order in relation to a child born to a surrogate mother.
Eligible employees do not need to satisfy any qualifying period to exercise this new right, it applies from the first day of employment. The position is slightly different for agency workers, for example, they must have completed their 12-week qualifying period.
Unlike the pregnant woman’s right to paid time off for ante-natal appointments, the new right to time off for fathers is unpaid. You can choose to pay for the time off but when doing so you need to be consistent in your approach and note this in your policy and Employee Handbook.
The employee or agency worker can request time off for up to two antenatal appointments lasting no more than six and half hours which includes time for travelling, waiting and attendance at the appointment. This is the minimum required by law; it’s open to you to agree to someone taking more time off if that’s reasonable.
Employers will NOT be entitled to ask for evidence of the appointment, such as the appointment card, as this is not the property of the employee but the pregnant woman.
If you want an audit trail for the time off you can ask your employee to put their request in writing stating:
- they are in a qualifying relationship either with the pregnant woman or the expected child;
- are taking the time off to accompany the pregnant woman to the ante-natal appointment which has been arranged on the advice of a registered medial practitioner, midwife or nurse; and
- the date and time of the appointment.
The right to time off may be refused when it is reasonable to do so, however, there is no guidance as to when it would be reasonable. An individual who is unreasonably refused time off to attend an ante-natal appointment can bring an Employment Tribunal claim. The remedy for a successful claim is compensation payable at twice the hourly rate for each hour that the employee could have taken off work.
Employees and qualifying agency workers will also be protected from any detriment arising from the exercise of their right to the time off. Dismissing an employee will be automatically unfair if the principal reason is for exercising their right to time off and the normal qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will not apply.