Antenatal Appointments Time off Work

  • Leave and Absence
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll look at what antenatal appointments are, the laws on pregnancy rights, and how to manage time off for antenatal care.

Time off to attend antenatal appointments is a common request for employers to receive. It's a form of antenatal care that all pregnant employees have a legal right to.

But, if a pregnant employee experiences unfair treatment, it could lead to discrimination claims. As a result, an employer could face losing staff, compensation penalties, and reputational damages.

In this guide, we'll look at what antenatal appointments are, the laws on pregnancy rights, and how to manage time off for antenatal care.

What is an antenatal appointment?

An antenatal appointment is when a person receives healthcare relating to their pregnancy. It sits under the umbrella term, 'antenatal care'.

An antenatal care appointment is usually used for medical examinations conducted by a registered doctor, midwife, or health visitor. Paid time off for antenatal care can also include parenting classes, exercise sessions, and even relaxation classes.

It's advisory to tell your employer about a pregnancy, but it's not a legal obligation. Employers must support their pregnant staff - from their first appointment to their last.

How many antenatal care days can employees take?

There are no set number of days that pregnant employees can ‘take off’ to attend antenatal care appointments. Instead, they're entitled to 'reasonable' paid time off. This includes commuting, waiting time, and the appointment itself (seeing the doctor or midwife).

You can ask pregnant employees to schedule appointments outside their normal working hours. You have the right to ask for them to be made at the start and end of the working day. Instead.

Fathers or partners are entitled to unpaid time off to attend an appointment. They can take up to two antenatal appointments (at six and a half hours per appointment).

Who is entitled to paid time off for antenatal care?

Every employee has a legal right to take reasonable paid time off to attend antenatal care appointments. This is regardless of their working hours, job status, or service length.

Agency workers never  class as employees but some employment rights may still apply. An agency worker must complete 12 weeks of work (under the same hirer) to receive paid leave for antenatal care. After this, they're entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments during normal working hours. These rules should be outlined within contracts for agency workers.

When employees attend antenatal care appointments, they must be paid at their normal rate. If their working hours vary per week, calculate their average hours using 12 full weeks before their first antenatal appointment. Any weeks with missing working hours shouldn't be included (use an earlier week instead).

What is the UK law on pregnant employees?

Under UK law, you don't need to tell your employer about your pregnancy. Having said that, their employer cannot treat them unfavourably when they do disclose it.

Pregnancy discrimination is unlawful as it's one of nine protected characteristics (under the Equality Act 2010). Unfavourable treatment can include refused time off or denied promotions simply because the employee is pregnant.

If this happens, an employee could decide to raise a pregnancy discrimination claim to an employment tribunal. If a tribunal judge upholds the claim, you could face compensation penalties, and reputational damages. It's the same with maternity discrimination.

A pregnant employee is still entitled to the same legal rights, as they would do if they weren't expecting. For example:

Health & Safety compliance

Every pregnant employee must be protected through Health & Safety compliance.

This is easily done through pregnancy risk assessments and safe working practices. For example, not allowing pregnant employees to work around toxic substances.

Sick leave

You cannot treat an employee unfavourably because of pregnancy-related sick leave.

Pregnant employees may suffer from new health conditions, resulting in higher sick leave requests.

Pregnancy-related sick leave should be noted as separate from normal sick days. It also shouldn’t be included within any disciplinary or redundancy reviews.

Maternity leave and pay

If an employee is employed by the same organisation throughout their pregnancy, they may qualify for statutory maternity leave and pay.

Pregnant employees should provide reasonable notice for when they wish to start statutory maternity pay (SMP) and leave. This is ideally done 15 weeks before the baby is due.

Employees may be entitled to statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks regardless of whether they'll return to work or not. This can be either after the baby is born, after the period of maternity leave, and after getting statutory maternity pay.


An employee can face redundancy because they are on maternity leave. This could result in discrimination, which is unlawful in the UK.  

Employees on maternity leave are entitled to:

  • The same job they worked in before leave.
  • A new job with the same work status and benefits.
  • The same placement but with better work entitlements.

However, these entitlement vary depending on the type of maternity leave they’ve been on – either ordinary or additional.

If any of these are denied, an employer could face maternity discrimination and unfair dismissal claims.

Time off for fathers and partners

Other members of working families can also receive benefits after the birth of a baby.

A pregnant woman's partner is allowed to take two weeks paternity leave and pay if they qualify. This pay is entitled to fathers or partners (including same-sex partners). They're also entitled to shared parental leave if the mother decides to end maternity leave early.

How to manage paid time off for antenatal appointments

There are many considerations that revolve around managing pregnant staff. From minimising health and safety risks to offering reasonable time off.

Here are ways to manage paid time off for antenatal appointments:

Create an antenatal care policy

The first step an employer should take is to create an antenatal care policy. This is a statement that shows your commitment to protecting pregnant employees.

The rules will be different for both pregnant or new parent employees. For example, allowing employees to work from home if they're suffering from minor pregnancy-related sickness.

You might even decide to include separate allowances for any part-time or agency worker you employ. Whatever their antenatal classes or appointments involve, be sure to outline the rules on taking paid time off.

Be empathetic with pregnancy-related sickness

There's no denying it - pregnancies come with all sorts of pains. These can include things like swollen feet, morning sickness, and muscle aches.

As an employer, aim to be empathetic with pregnancy-related sickness. Every employee's pregnancy journey is different to another; and so are their symptoms and illnesses.

So, be supportive and understanding when they request leave for medical appointments or recovery days. If you discipline them for taking this leave, you could be liable for pregnancy discrimination.

Ask them to provide proof of their pregnancy

An employee doesn't have to provide written confirmation for their first antenatal appointment, or even their pregnancy. However, keeping it a secret limits protection and even some legal rights.

Ask your employees to disclose their pregnancies, as soon as they feel comfortable to do so. This will allow the employer to cater to their needs, like taking time off to attend antenatal appointments.

You can ask for proof through an appointment card. But note, an antenatal appointment card isn't the same as a MATB1 maternity certificate. This certificate, confirming a pregnancy, is not issued until you are at least 20 weeks pregnant.

Offer reasonable adjustments

An employer must make reasonable adjustments to a pregnant employee’s working environment. This not only safeguards the employee's welfare, but also the unborn baby's.

You should outline the employee's normal working day and see what changes you can make for them. For example, offering occupational health (OH) services.

Get expert advice on paid time off for antenatal appointments with Peninsula

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to protect employees who are expecting. From finding out their pregnant to their last day, make sure pregnant women work in safety and comfort.

If you neglect their pregnancy rights or entitlements, you could end up facing discrimination claims. And these often result in compensation penalties, business losses, and reputational damage.

Peninsula offers expert advice on time off for antenatal appointments. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment advice which is available 365 days a year. We also provide advice from our fully trained advisors who are ready to help.

Want to find out more? Seek advice from one of our HR consultants. Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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