Pregnant employees/agency workers have a statutory right to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments. This time off is not dependant upon length of service for employees or the amount of time that they work. Agency workers must however have completed a 12 week qualifying service period. The prospective father, husband or partner has no legal right to accompany and so in most cases would have to use annual leave.
This all changes on 1st October 2014 when any employee or agency worker who has a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman or her expected child will then have the right to accompany the pregnant woman to 2 antenatal appointments. The time off is 6.5 hours for each appointment and is unpaid time off. Again as in the case of the pregnant woman, the right automatically applies to employees but agency workers have to have 12 weeks qualifying service.
What is a qualifying relationship?
This includes but is not limited to the pregnant woman’s husband, civil partner, the expected child’s father and the partner where the couple are of the same sex and the child was conceived by sperm donation. The pregnant woman’s parents, siblings or grandparents would not qualify.
Employers have the right to request evidence that there is a qualifying relationship before agreeing to the time off. Employers may also wish to request evidence of the date and time of the appointment.
If employers unreasonably refuse to permit this time off, the employees/agency workers do have the right to present a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
Our recommendation is for your family friendly policies to be updated and for your senior staff to be made aware of these new rights.