Introduction to Time off for Antenatal Appointments Policy

30 January 2024 | HR & Employment

Introduction to Time off for Antenatal Appointments Policy

SHARE

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship.  As a matter of good practice, and often a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute, are the non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a staff handbook. This can sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.

Time off for Antenatal Appointments Policy

Pregnant employees and agency workers have a legal right to paid time off during working hours for the purpose of receiving antenatal care.  The right applies regardless of the number of hours worked by the employee or worker.  For employees the right is a ‘day one’, but agency workers must complete a 12 week qualifying period.

Antenatal care is not defined by law, but according to government guidance it is not restricted to medical care.  This means it can include other non-medical classes, such as relaxation and parentcraft classes provided they are recommended by a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.

There aren’t any particular formalities for exercising the right to time off. The employee simply needs to let their employer know the time and date of their appoint and ask for the time off.  Similarly, an agency worker should inform her temporary work agency and hirer of the appointment details. Any time off can include the travel time.  Ideally they should give as much notice as possible, but there isn’t any minimum notice period that must be given.

An employer in the case of an employee, or the temporary work agency or hirer in the case of an agency worker, may refuse a request for time off to attend an antenatal appointment where it is reasonable for them to do so.  Unhelpfully, the legislation doesn’t contain any guidance as to when it might be reasonable to refuse a request for time off, and there is little case law to help clarify the matter.   But it’s generally accepted that the timing, length and frequency of appointments, the notice given and the ability of the employer or temporary work agency to arrange essential cover will all be factors when assessing whether a refusal is reasonable.

With the exception of the first appointment (presumably because the employee or agency worker will not have evidence of pregnancy until after that appointment), the employer, temporary work agency or hirer is entitled to ask for evidence of any antenatal appointment. If such a request is made, then the employee or agency worker is not entitled to take time off they produce such evidence.  They will need to show their employer a MAT B1, to prove they are pregnant, and an appointment card or some other document showing the appointment has been made.

The employee or agency worker is entitled to be paid at her normal hourly rate of pay during the period of time off for antenatal care.

If an employee or agency worker is refused time off, then she can bring a claim in an employment tribunal.  If the refusal is found to be unreasonable then it’s likely to amount to unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.  If the woman is allowed time off, but she’s not paid for it, then she can claim twice as much pay as she should have received for the time off.

Employee’s and agency workers who have a qualifying relationship with a pregnant person can also have time off to accompany a pregnant person to an antenatal appointment.  The right applies from day one for employees and, once again, the agency worker must have completed a 12 week qualifying period.

A qualifying relationship is one where the employee or agency worker:

  • is the woman’s husband or civil partner; or
  • lives with the pregnant woman in an enduring family relationship, but they’re not one of their relatives e.g. an unmarried partner; or
  • is the expected child’s father.

The right to time off to accompany a pregnant woman is limited to no more than two occasions lasting no more than six and a half hours each and it is unpaid.  An employer, agency or hirer can allow more time off and continue to pay the employee or worker if they wish, but they’re not required to do so.

The purpose of the time off in this case is to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment, so the employee or worker can’t go to the appointment by themself.  Once again, if asked, the employee or worker will need to provide evidence of both the pregnancy and the appointment.

Click here for an example Time off for Antenatal Appointments Policy that we’ve prepared.  This policy covers the legal requirements relating to time off for an appointment and time off to accompany someone to an appoint, but you will still need to tailor it to make sure it covers how you will deal with such appointments.

This article and the policy are provided for general information purposes only and you should take specialist advice in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that what we say is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

Need Legal Advice?
Call 0330 912 8338 for a no-obligation chat with one our experts today.

Where to find us

We have offices in Bury St. Edmunds, Sudbury and London.

Related Expertise

Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

More Insights

Introduction to Dogs at Work Policy

Introduction to Dogs at Work Policy

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship.  As a matter of good practice, and often a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a...

read more
Introduction to Data Protection Policy

Introduction to Data Protection Policy

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship.  As a matter of good practice, and often a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a...

read more
Introduction to Adoption Policy

Introduction to Adoption Policy

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship. As a matter of good practice, and often a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a...

read more

We’re here to help