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How will new rules on ante-natal appointments affect my business?


New laws extending the right to take time off work to accompany pregnant women to ante-natal appointments will affect the employers of expectant fathers and partners of pregnant women.

With effect from October 1, 2014 those who have a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her unborn child will have the right to request time off work to support their partner at up to two ante-natal appointments per pregnancy lasting no more than six and a half hours each.

Under current regulations only pregnant women have the statutory right to take time off work for the purpose of receiving ante-natal care. However the new rules aim to give all expectant parents greater involvement.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, which amends the Employment Rights Act 1996, there is no continuous period of employment required so all employees qualify for this right from day one of their employment.  Agency workers will have the same rights as employees if they have worked in the same role for the same hirer for twelve continuous weeks.

Those who are deemed to have a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or the unborn child are:

  • The spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman.
  • Those who live with the expectant mother in an enduring family relationship (either heterosexual or same sex) but are not a relative of the woman.
  • The expected child’s father.
  • One of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under the assisted reproduction provisions in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
  • Those who are a potential applicant for a Parental Order and will become parents to the child through a surrogacy agreement.

The employer may request a signed declaration from the employee stating:

  • That they have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman;
  • That the purpose of taking the time off is to accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment;
  • That the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife; and
  • The date and time of the appointment.

While pregnant women have the right to be paid their normal hourly rate of pay when taking time off to attend ante-natal appointments, employers are not required to pay those accompanying the pregnant woman for this purpose.

Under the new rules employers have the right to refuse requests for time off from expectant fathers and partners of pregnant women where it is reasonable to do so, but there is no guidance stating under which grounds this would be reasonable action.

We recommend that employers update their policies to reflect these recent changes.

For more information on this, or any other employment law matter, contact the Employment team on 01772 258321. 

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