Generally, employers do not need to pay staff for time taken off for attending appointments such as doctors or dentists appointments, or any other medically related meeting. The employee is not at work; therefore does not need to be paid. Contracts of employment should be checked though, to ensure that there is no contractual provision entitling the employee to full pay during time taken off for this reason.
Some employers include specific clauses which address this circumstance in their employment documentation encouraging employees to make these appointments outside of their working hours. If the employee is a flexi worker, or works part-time, it may be easier for them to meet this requirement, however, it may be too restrictive and unreasonable to expect this of all of your employees. Although doctor’s practices are attempting to cater more and more for patients who work full time hours, it is sometimes not possible for an employee to control the time of their appointment so that it does not impact on their working day. They will generally be told by the practice when to attend for their appointment and will have no say in this if they want to be seen promptly.
If other arrangements are made with the employee for how the time is taken, then it may be that you will still pay them, for example, if the time is taken as annual leave, or if you arrange for the time to be made up the next day.
The situation is different when the employee is pregnant and the appointment is for ante-natal care. A pregnant employee is entitled to take time off work with pay during normal working hours to attend ante-natal appointments. The right applies regardless of length of service, size of employer or the number of hours worked by the employee per week. The right also extends to travelling time and waiting time in connection with the appointment, not simply the time spent in the appointment itself.
Ante-natal care can include relaxation and parent-craft classes, so is not just limited to medical examinations.
Other than for the first appointment, the employee must, if you request her to do so, produce a certificate confirming that she is pregnant and an appointment card (or similar document) from a registered medical practitioner, or a registered midwife, in the case of medical examinations or relaxation classes, or from a registered health visitor in the case of parent-craft classes, showing that an appointment has been made.
If you unreasonably refuse to grant time off, or fail to pay the entire amount to which the employee is entitled, the employee can make a claim to tribunal. Since the right is not be unreasonably refused time off, it follows that there are circumstances in which you might reasonably refuse this time off.
By Nicola Mullineux
For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.