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Currently, pregnant employees and agency workers have a legal right to time off work to attend antenatal appointments.
Their partners have no legal right to attend the appointment with them, although some employers have allowed such time off as part of their family-friendly work policies.
From 1 October 2014 the right will be extended so that fathers and partners can also take time off work to accompany a pregnant woman at those appointments.
The new right to time off is limited to partners attending two antenatal appointments. The total time off during working hours for each appointment should be no more than six and a half hours.
The right applies to employees and agency workers. However, for agency workers to benefit they must: have completed their 12 week qualifying period; continue to work in the same role; and have had no break between assignments or during an assignment when they have not been working.
The partner making an application for time off must have a "qualifying relationship" with the pregnant woman or expected child. This means they are:
There is no set format for making a time off application unless requested by the employer, temporary work agency or hirer.
If requested, the employee or agency worker must provide the following information, otherwise they will not be entitled to take time off:
Yes, where it is reasonable to do so. Unfortunately, there is no guidance on this, just as there is no guidance or case law as to when it would be reasonable to refuse a pregnant employee time off to attend an antenatal appointment.
The new right will be for unpaid time off, whereas pregnant employees or agency workers currently have a right to paid time off.
If unreasonably refused time off, employees and agency workers can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
Subject to the early ACAS conciliation rules, such a claim must be brought:
Compensation for a successful claim is double the hourly rate paid for the time which would have been taken off by the individual had they been allowed to attend the appointment.
The compensation may not therefore be significant, but clearly it is best to avoid such a dispute to avoid legal cost, management time and a negative impact on staff morale.
Employees and agency workers also have a right not to be subjected to any detriment because they have taken time off for family reasons.
Furthermore, employees will be able to bring an automatically unfair dismissal claim where the principal reason for their dismissal is the fact that they have taken time off to accompany a pregnant woman to antenatal appointment.
The latter two claims are likely to be more significant in terms of amount of compensation that could be awarded by the Tribunal for a successful claim.
In order to prepare your organisation for the introduction of this new right on 1 October 2014, consider the following:
This article was written by Jessica Shemmings.
For more information contact Jessica on +44 (0)20 7427 6499 or email@example.com