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New right of a father or partner of expectant mother to take time off to accompany at ante-natal appointments

29th September 2014
From 1st October 2014 an expectant father, or the partner (including in a same sex couple) or a pregnant woman will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the expectant mother at up to two ante-natal appoinments. The right applies to the woman's husband, civil partner or partner (including a same-sex partner), the father of the pregnant woman's child (ie including a father that is not the woman's husband or partner), and the intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement (where the surrogate parents intends to apply for a Parental Order for teh child born through that arrangement).

Tha Government's aim in introducing this right is to achieve a greater involvement of both of the child's parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

It is important to note that the right is to accompany the expectant mother, and not a right to insist on being present at the ante-natal appointment. The mother does not have to allow the other person to be present in the appointment.

An expectant mother will often have up to ten ante-natal appointments. However, the right under the new regulations will be for the other parent to accompany her to one or two of those appointments. The amount of time for each such appointment is capped at six and a half hours. This it is believed will provide sufficient time to travel to and from the appointment as well as to attend. Employers can, if they wish, give more time than this for each occasion the right is exercised. Alternatively an individual may choose to take additional time from their normal holiday entitlement (subject to booking that time off correctly of course). 

This right applies to employees from the start of their employment, and does not depend on having any particular period of employment. The entitlement also covers agency workers, but in their case the right is subject to them having being doing the same kind of job for the same hirer (the person or business that the agency sends them to work at) for at least 12 weeks.

Employers cannot insist on seeing proof that the expectant mother in question has booked a certain ante-natal appoinment, and the appointment card for the expectant mother cannot be requested by the employer of the partner/husband/father of the child. However, the employer can request an employee to provide a signed declaration confirming that the employee has a qualifying relationship with the expectant mother, that the purpose of the absence is to accompany her to an ante-natal appointment, that the appointment has been made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or registered nurse, plus the date and time of the appointment.

The right is for unpaid time off, not paid time. Nevertheless, the employer can agree to pay the employee in that situation if they wish.  

Employers will need to introduce a new policy or guidelines on managing this right and dealing with any relevant request for time off in these circumstances, but we do not think that this should or will cause employers with frequent problems, as the right is to unpaid time off work. Similarly individuals will need to be properly prepared with the required information if they wish to exercise this right. At Hallett Employment Law Services we can help you with managing this issue correctly and appropriately. If you need further assistance on this matter do not hesitate to contact us. 

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