From 1 October 2014, expectant fathers and partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments.
This new right to attend antenatal appointments is one of a number of changes to family friendly rights that the Government is introducing over the next few months, including the new right to shared parental leave and pay, which will feature in a future blog. The Government is keen to encourage fathers to have a greater involvement in the lives of their children and is giving fathers-to-be and partners of pregnant women a statutory right to take time off work to attend two antenatal appointments from 1 October 2014. This new right is in addition to a pregnant woman’s existing right to paid time off to attend all her antenatal appointments.
- is to unpaid time off to attend two appointments, although it is always open to an employer to allow employees to attend more appointments and to pay for the time off;
- is for up to 6.5 hours off work per appointment;
- applies to employees and to some agency workers. For employees, this is day one right, which means there is no qualifying requirement so an employee can take time off immediately on starting employment;
- cannot be refused even if the timing does not work from the employer’s perspective;
- requires the individual to have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or the child, which includes the father of the child, and the woman’s partner (which can mean her husband, civil partner or partner (whether male or female)). This means that if the father and the woman’s partner are two different people, both are entitled to take time off to accompany the pregnant woman, and a father to two children by two different women can take time off to accompany both women.
Antenatal appointments must be made on the advice of a registered doctor, midwife or nurse, but this is interpreted widely so it is not limited to scans. Employers can ask their employee to sign a declaration confirming their entitlement to the right, and the date and time of the appointment.
If an employee or agency worker is denied their right to take time off to attend the appointment, an employment tribunal can award compensation calculated at twice the hourly rate of pay for each hour that the person would have taken off if they had been allowed the time off. In addition, the individual is protected if they are treated in a way that they wouldn’t have been had they not asked for the time off or are dismissed because of it.
The right also applies to intended parents of a baby due to be born through a surrogacy arrangement if the intended parents expect to satisfy the conditions for and intend to apply for a parental order for the baby. This means that both intended parents can take time off work to attend two of the surrogate mother’s antenatal appointments.
All employers and managers should be aware of this new right and update their employment policies to include it.