Employers are reminded that from 1 October 2014 an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman will be entitled to accompany them to up to two ante-natal appointments.
The father or partner (including of the same sex) will be given the right to take unpaid leave to attend the appointments, with the time off capped at six hours 30 minutes per appointment to cover travel time, waiting time and attendance.
Employers, agencies and hirers are free to offer more time off, while extra time can be taken from annual leave.
The Government has introduced the right to unpaid leave as part of its aim to achieve greater involvement of both of the child’s parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy. This right applies whether the child is conceived naturally or through donor insemination. It also extends to those who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to satisfy the conditions for and intend to apply for a Parental Order for the child born through that arrangement.
An employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of ante-natal appointments, however they are entitled to ask the employee to sign a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment, how they qualify through their relationship with the expectant mother, and confirmation that the time off is for the purpose of attending an ante-natal appointment.
Employers should be warned that if an employee or agency worker is refused time off, they can be taken to an Employment Tribunal within a three month period. If the Tribunal upholds the complaint, it can order the employer to pay compensation.
The Government has said that employees who are victimised, denied promotion or job opportunities when seeking to exercise their statutory right to unpaid time off are protected by law. If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising their right, then the dismissal is automatically ruled as unfair.
There is no qualifying period for employees as this is a “one-day” right, however qualifying agency workers are required to have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks.
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