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Part one: Who is entitled to the new right to time off for antenatal appointments ?

From 1 October 2014, employees in a “qualifying relationship” will be entitled to accompany their pregnant partners to two antenatal appointments, for up to six and a half hours per appointment. In the first of our two part blog we take a look at who qualifies for the right to time off and how a request is made. 

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Employees have no right to be paid during time off. Eligible agency workers are also entitled to the same rights as employees, so long as they have completed a 12-week qualifying period, are working in the same role and there has not been a break between or during assignment(s) (i.e. neither regulation 8(a) or (b) of the Agency Worker Regulations (“AWR”) 2010 applies).

“Qualifying Relationship”

As is to be expected, the question of who exactly is entitled to the time off is suitably comprehensive and occasionally complex – fathers, husbands and civil partners are joined in their entitlement by those living in an enduring family relationship with the woman (but who are not family members), the “other parent” in same sex couples undergoing assisted reproduction as per s.42 or 43 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (“HFEA”) 2008 and those expecting a child via a surrogate mother and who are potential applicants for a parental order under s54 of the same Act.

 

Interestingly, while it isn’t set out in the legislation who would be entitled to time off if there is a difference between the biological parent of the unborn child and the woman’s partner, BIS guidance makes clear that both would be entitled to the time off.

Accordingly, whilst likely to be uncommon, all who have a “qualifying relationship” with the woman would be entitled to attend two appointments each, providing she wanted them there!  Similarly, where an employee is expecting a child with multiple partners, he is entitled to attend two appointments per child – the purpose of the legislation is to help build parents’ relationships with their children, irrespective of the orthodoxy of the family relationship.

Making the request

There are no specific conditions or process to be followed when requesting time off.  The only caveat to this is that the employer can ask for a signed declaration from the employee, stating:

  • that they have a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her unborn child;
  • that the time off is to accompany that woman to an antenatal appointment;
  • that the appointment is made on the advice of a relevant medical advisor; and
  • the date and time of the appointment.

If the employee refuses to provide this, he or she ceases to be entitled to the time off.  BIS guidance makes it clear that any proof of appointment remains the property of the mother and, therefore, cannot be sought by a partner’s employer, hence this process.

In part two of our blog we discuss what rights an employee has when a request is refused and top tips for employers on dealing with this new right to time off.

Other blogs of interest:

Parental equality – but not when it comes to pay

What to expect in Autumn 2014

Fostering for adoption – a flexible policy

Surrogacy – some births are more equal than others

Questions about your antenatal policy – contact us

Keep up to date and follow us: @dwf_employment

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Legal news, views, trends and tools for HR Professionals. Stay ahead. Go further