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1st October 2014

Extended Entitlement for Ante-Natal Appointment

With effect from 1st October 2014, an expectant father or the partner (including same sex) of a pregnant woman will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the woman to up to two of her ante-natal appointments.  In order to assist employers, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has recently published guidance which sets out how the extended entitled will work in practice.

The BIS guidance confirms that, in the context of the extended right to unpaid time off, the meaning of the term “partner” includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person (of either sex) in a long term relationship with her.  The guidance also confirms that the right applies whether the child is conceived naturally or through donor insemination, as well as in situations where the relevant person will become a parent through a surrogacy arrangement (provided that they satisfy the conditions for and intend to apply for a Parental Order).

Employees accompanying the expectant mother to her ante-natal appointments are entitled to unpaid leave for one or two appointments.  The time off is capped at six and a half hours for each appointment.

Employers should be aware that they are not entitled to ask the employee for any evidence of the ante-natal appointments (on the basis that any available evidence, such as an appointment card, is likely to be the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment).  However, an employer is entitled to ask the employee for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment, that the employee qualifies for the unpaid time off through his or her relationship with the mother or child, and that the time off is for the purpose of attending an ante-natal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.

Employers should also be aware that the entitlement to unpaid time off to accompany their partner to up to two ante-natal appointments  is regarded as being a ‘day one’ right and, as such, there is no qualifying period for employees.  However, agency workers who are not employees of the work agency will have to satisfy a qualifying period.

If an employee is denied the right by their employer to take unpaid time off, they may make a claim to an Employment Tribunal within a three month period.  If the Employment Tribunal upholds the employee’s complaint it must make a declaration and order compensation calculated as twice the hourly rate of pay for each of the hours that the person would have taken off if the right had been respected.  In addition to this, if an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise the right to take unpaid time off, the dismissal will be regarded as being ‘automatically unfair’ regardless of the employee’s length of service.

A copy of the guidance published by BIS is available to download here

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