26 Nov 2014
Nicola-Jane Scott, Solicitor, explains the new rights for fathers and partners.
From 1st October 2014, fathers and partners now have the right to take unpaid time off work to accompany expectant mothers to two antenatal appointments.
Partner includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person (of either sex) in a long term relationship with her. The 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.
This right marks a significant step by the government to encourage the involvement of fathers with their children from the earliest possible stages.
In terms of this right, an employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of the antenatal appointments, such as an appointment card, as this is the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment. However, an employer is entitled to ask the employee for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment, that the employee qualifies for the unpaid time off through his or her relationship with the mother or child, and that the time off is for the purpose of attending an antenatal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.
This entitlement allows unpaid leave to attend up to two appointments with the maximum time capped at six hours and 30 minutes per appointment. This covers travelling time, waiting time and attendance at the appointment. The Government has attempted to minimise the cost to employers by making the time off unpaid and restricting the entitlement to two appointments.
It is important to note that there is no qualifying period for employees. This right is essentially a “day one” right.
It is hoped that the right to time of work to attend such appointments will assist fathers and partners to play an important role in the early stages of pregnancy. In addition, it is envisaged this will assist men in being able to approach their employers about taking time off for childcare.
Following on from this right, will be the government’s introduction of the right for parents to share parental leave. This comes into force in April 2015 and it is hoped that such a right will create a more flexible and motivated workforce for employers.