Time off for antenatal care Q&A

Do you know what the law says about time off to attend antenatal appointments? 

Are you aware of how much you need to pay expectant mothers or fathers? Do you know what claims you could face if you get things wrong?

If the answers to those questions are no, this is essential reading. In this article, we will answer your questions about the right for expectant mothers and fathers to take time off work to attend antenatal appointments.

Rules for Expectant Mothers:

Do pregnant employees have a right to time off for antenatal classes?

Yes. Pregnant employees have the right to time off to attend antenatal care appointments made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner.

How long is the employee entitled to?

Employees are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of time off. This should include travel and waiting time.

“Reasonable” is not defined – it will depend on the individual circumstances. You should consider a range of factors, for example how long the appointment is, how much notice the employee gave you, if an appointment could be arranged outside of the employee’s working time, how much time is necessary to travel to and from the appointment, etc.

What types of antenatal appointments are included?

It is not limited to just medical appointments. The right extends to any appointments made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or nurse for the purpose of antenatal care. This may include relaxation classes, parent craft classes, etc.

Does the employee have to be paid for this time off?

Yes. Employees have the right to be paid their normal hourly rate for the entire duration of the time off necessary to attend the antenatal appointment.

Do all employees receive this right irrespective of their length of service?

All employees have this right from their first day of employment.

Agency workers may also obtain this right if they satisfy the qualifying period. Qualifying agency workers must have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for a minimum of 12 weeks in order to gain this right to paid time for antenatal care.

Does the pregnant employee have to prove that they have an appointment?

The employee will need to provide you with a certificate confirming that they are pregnant. You can ask for evidence of appointments, from the second appointment onwards. Proof may include an appointment card or an equivalent document.

Can I refuse to grant time off?

There is no guidance from the government, statute or case law which helps clarify when it may be reasonable to refuse.

If I get it wrong, can an employee make claim?

The pregnant employee can submit a claim to an Employment Tribunal if you unreasonably deny her time off to attend antenatal appointments or fail to pay her for this time off.

Rules for Expectant Fathers:

Do fathers have a right to time off?

An expectant father will be entitled to take time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to her antenatal appointments.

Does this time off have to be paid?

No. Unlike the right afforded to expectant mothers, the employers have no statutory obligation to pay the accompanying partner for the time off.

How many antenatal appointments can they attend?

This right covers up to a maximum of two appointments with each time capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes per appointment.

Who has the right to take this type of time off?

Employees and qualifying agency workers are entitled to this right if they are the father of the baby or the expectant mother’s spouse, civil partner, or partner in an enduring relationship.

Is there a qualifying requirement?

As with expectant mothers, there is no qualifying period for employees. Qualifying agency workers must have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks in order to acquire this right.

Can I ask for proof?

You cannot ask for an appointment card as this is the personal property belonging to the expectant mother.

However, you can ask for a signed declaration, which states the date and time of the appointment, confirms the qualifying relationship with the pregnant women or child and explains that the purpose of the time off is to for an antenatal appointment, which has been made on the basis of the advice of a GP, nurse or midwife.

Can employees make claims to Employment Tribunals?

Any employee or agency worker who is entitled to this right but has been unreasonably denied it may complain to an Employment Tribunal.

You must also not treat the employee unfairly because they have asked or have taken time off. For example, denying them a promotion would be an example of the employee suffering detriment for exercising their right.

Do not hesitate and call Ellis Whittam today for more information!