From October the 1st 2014 there is a new right for employees and agency workers (who have completed their 12 week qualifying period) to take unpaid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments with their pregnant partner/surrogate. To be eligible, you must be in a “qualifying relationship” with the pregnant woman or with the expected child.
In short, a qualifying relationship roughly equates to having parental responsibility for the expected child.
For those interested in a more legal definition; you must be the father of the expected child, or the husband or civil partner of the expectant mother, or the person who is living with her but not a relative (e.g. not her parent or brother or sister), or in a same sex relationship with the expectant woman and will be considered the other parent of the expected child (further to the assisted reproduction provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008), or will be the applicant of a parental order in respect of a child of a surrogate mother.
What is the right exactly?
For employees and eligible agency workers in a “qualifying relationship” (see above) to attend 2 antenatal appointments. The time off work for each appointment should be no more than six and a half hours.
How do you ask for the time off?
There isn’t a set procedure, unless your employer has one. If your employer has a procedure you need to follow, follow it. If there isn’t a set procedure, then you should request the time off as far in advance as possible, providing the following information:
• That you are an employee or eligible agency worker
• That you are in a “qualifying relationship”
• That the purpose of the time off is to attend an antenatal appointment
• That the appointment has been made on the advice of a medical professional
• The time and date of the appointment
Can time off be refused?
Yes, if the refusal is reasonable. Unhelpfully, there is no guidance on what is “reasonable refusal”.
What if I’m treated badly because I asked for the time off?
You have a right not to be treated badly because you have taken reasonable time off for family reasons. If you are dismissed by your employer because you asked for time off to attend the 2 antenatal appointments, you would have an unfair dismissal claim, even if you do not have 2 years continuous service.
What happens if my employer gets it wrong?
If time off is unreasonably refused, you can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. Compensation is double the hourly rate of pay for the time that would have been taken off by the individual to attend the antenatal appointment/s.
I’m an employer. What should I do and where can I get more information?
- Have a look at any family friendly policies you have and amend them if necessary. You might want to go further than the new right – for example allowing individuals to attend 3 antenatal appointments, or to pay them when they attend, rather than their time being unpaid. There is no law that says you have to offer more, but it might be a good (and potentially, cost-effective) way of offering your staff something extra that will be really appreciated.
- Think about introducing a formal procedure for requesting unpaid time off to attend the two antenatal appointments and how you will record the time taken (keeping an accurate record should prevent arguments over whether or not the time was taken and make it easier to make sure the individual is only taking time off for 2 appointments).
- Make sure that managers are aware of the new right and what to do if they receive a request.
The information in this ezine is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Law Express does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from relying on information contained in this ezine. It is not a substitute for legal advice and specific and personal legal advice should be taken on any individual matter.