From October 1 2014, an expectant father or partner (including of the same sex) of a pregnant women will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the women to up to two of her ante-natal appointments.

This right also 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.

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.

Below is a summary of the new right to attend ante-natal appointments:

  • Employees are entitled to unpaid leave to accompany the expectant mother to one or two appointments.
  • The time is capped at six hours and 30 minutes per appointments – this covers travel, waiting time and attendance.
  • Employers, agencies and hires are free to offer more time and extra time can be taken from annual leave.
  • 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.
  • There is no qualifying period for employees as this is a ’day-one’ 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.
  • Any employee or agency worker refused time off can complain to the Employment Tribunal within a three month period. If the Tribunal upholds the complaint it can order the employer to pay compensation.

When the pregnant women’s husband or partner and the father of the child is not the same person, both the father and partner are entitled to take time off for up to two appointments. However in practice, the Government believe it will be unlikely that the circumstance will arise that the women wants both to accompany her to her appointment.

If a man is an expectant father with two different women he is entitled to attend appointments with each pregnant mother.

The new legislation does not mean that the father has the right to attend ante-natal appointments, only the right for time off to accompany their spouse, partner or the woman who is carrying their child. It is always open to the expectant mother to refuse permission for the person to attend.

Pregnant women are offered paid time off because ante-natal care is important for the health and well-being of the women and the unborn child, as these considerations do not apply to a person who is not pregnant they are only entitled to unpaid time off.

Employees or agency workers who exercise or seek to exercise their statutory right to unpaid time off to accompany their spouse, partner or parent of their child to ante-natal appointments are protected by law from detriment arising from the exercise of that right. Detriment covers victimisation, being denied promotion or job opportunities, or otherwise being disadvantages as a result of asking for, or taking, time off to accompany the expectant mother to an appointment.

If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise their right, the dismissal is automatically ruled as unfair.

For more information on claiming this entitlement, or advice if you have been refused this right, speak to our Employment Team on 020 7240 0521.