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New Legislation

Time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments

Pregnant employees and certain agency workers already have the right to paid time off for antenatal appointments. From 1 October 2014 employees in a qualifying relationship will be able to take unpaid time off for ante-natal appointments to accompany them.

Time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments

From 1 October 2014 time off to accompany someone to ante-natal appointments will be limited to two appointments only, each lasting no more than six and half hours.

What is an ante-natal appointment?

An ante-natal appointment for these purposes is an ‘appointment made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse.’

Who may accompany to ante-natal appointments?

Only a person in a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or expected child can take time off. Someone is in a qualifying relationship for time off for ante-natal appointments if:

  • They are the husband or civil partner of the pregnant woman;
  • They live with the pregnant woman in an enduring family relationship and are not a relative;
  • They are the expected child’s father;
  • They are in a same-sex relationship and will be the expected child’s parent under provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA 2008); or
  • They are the potential applicant for a parental order under the HFEA 2008 under a surrogacy arrangement.

Adopters will also be able take time off to attend appointments to meet the child they intend to adopt.

How do employees exercise the right to time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments?

If an employee wishes to take time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments they need to notify their employer. The employer can request a declaration from the employee before the time off is taken. The declaration must state:

  • that they have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or the expected child,
  • that the purpose for the time off is to accompany the woman to an ante-natal appointment,
  • that the appointment is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse, and
  • the date and time of the appointment.

The employer can reasonably refuse to allow the employee to take the time off. If they unreasonably refuse the employee may be able to bring an employment tribunal claim.

In practice

All employers should review their maternity and other family friendly policies to make sure that they are updated to include this new right.

Employers should also consider their approach to requests and whether declarations will be required. Taking an ad hoc approach runs the risk of claims of different and less favourable treatment which could amount to unlawful discrimination on grounds of, for example, sex or disability. Employers also need to consider the pay implications. The right to accompany to ante-natal appointments is unpaid. However, employers can exercise discretion or may be obliged to pay under the terms of the contract. Employers also need to be mindful about pregnant employees’ pay for ante-natal appointments. If they are paid more than is legally required, employees accompanying them and who are paid less may have a claim for discrimination.

If you are a people manager and unsure how to handle this new right or would like help updating your policies and procedures get in touch with one of our specialist employment law solicitors who will be happy to talk through your requirements.

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