New rights for time off for ante natal appointments

You may have seen in the news that on 1 October 2014, expectant fathers or the partner (including same sex) of a pregnant woman are now entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the woman to up to 2 of her ante-natal appointments.

The right applies to those who have conceived naturally, through donor insemination and also extends to those who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement. This is the first time we have seen surrogates parents included.  Surrogates will also be entitled to the new Shared Parental leave which will be law from December 1st 2014.

Employees who accompany the expectant mother to her ante-natal appointments are entitled to unpaid leave for 1 or 2 appointments. The time off is capped at six and a half hours for each appointment.

As an employer you are not entitled to ask for any evidence of the ante-natal appointments, but you are entitled to ask the employee for a declaration telling you the date and time of the appointment.

You can also ask the employee to declare the following:

• the qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child;
• that the employee’s purpose in taking time off is to accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment
• that the appointment in question is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse

To qualify for the unpaid time off they must be:
• the baby’s father;
• the expectant mother’s spouse, her civil partner, or partner (of either sex)
• intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child.

There is no qualifying period for employees. This means that as soon as they start working for you they accrue this right.

The entitlement is to unpaid leave to attend to up to 2 appointments with the maximum time capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes per appointment.

If you refuse the employee this right they can complain to the Employment Tribunal within a three month period. If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise these rights, the dismissal is automatically unfair.

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