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New rights for fathers to attend antenatal appointments

New rules come into force on 1st October 2014 which will enable fathers to be and partners of pregnant women to take time off for antenatal appointments.

Under the current regulations only pregnant women are legally entitled to time off during working hours for the purpose of receiving antenatal care but the Children and Families Act 2014 aims to give employees more flexibility.

The new rules mean that time off work to attend two antenatal appointments( that last up to six and a half hours each) can be taken by prospective fathers or other qualifying person.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, there is no continuous period of employment required to qualify so this statutory right will be available to employees and agency workers from the start of their employment.

Who qualifies for this benefit?

You are deemed to have a ‘qualifying relationship’ with a woman or her expected child if:

  • You are the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner.
  • You live with the woman (whether in a heterosexual or same sex relationship) in an enduring family relationship and are not a relative of the woman.
  • You are the expected child’s father.
  • You are one of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under the assisted reproduction provisions in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
  • You are the potential applicant for a Parental Order in relation to a child who is expected to be born to a surrogate mother.

What are the requirements?

Under the new rules the employer may require documentary evidence of an appointment. In this case you must provide a written declaration stating:

  • The qualifying relationship you have with the pregnant woman or expected child.
  • The purpose of taking the time off is specifically to attend an antenatal appointment.
  • The appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.
  • The date and time of the appointment.

Rights of the employer:

  • Where it is reasonable to do so, an employer has the right to refuse time off . However there is no guidance in the legislation stating when this might be the case.
  • There is no obligation to pay for time off unless otherwise agreed. This contrasts with the employment rights of a pregnant woman who will be paid her normal hourly rate during the period of time off for antenatal care.