Allowing staff time off to attend antenatal appointments is something which all employers must agree to and the rules on this are defined within the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Pregnant employees must be allowed a reasonable amount of paid time off to attend antenatal care, regardless of their length of service.
This time off for antenatal appointments should not be treated as sick leave and is a separate classification of leave which staff are entitled to.
In this guide, we explore the laws you need to keep in mind and how you can approach helping your staff members attend their appointments.
How to approach antenatal leave
While there’s no definition of what length of time is considered to be reasonable, most women are expected to undergo between 7-10 antenatal midwife appointments during their pregnancy.
So it’s important you accommodate for:
- Antenatal classes: Also referred to as “parentcraft”, these help upcoming parents to prepare for the birth of their child. This helps them gain confidence and understanding of the process.
- Medical appointments: Such as time off for baby scans. These are essential for parents as it can determine the gender and health of their baby.
However, there may be certain circumstances where additional appointments are required.
The further you know in advance, the more time you can spend on organising a stand-in for your staff members.
Do staff receive paid time off for antenatal care (UK)?
Pregnant employees should be paid their normal rate of pay for time spent at any antenatal appointments, including travel to and from their appointment.
These can include visits for medical examinations as well as relaxation and parenting classes if recommended by a medical practitioner.
Apart from the first midwife appointment, you can request that pregnant employees provide evidence of the time and date of future appointments. You can expect these to be arranged at regular intervals up until the birth including after 16 weeks, 25 weeks and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
How to manage leave for antenatal appointments
It’s inappropriate to refuse any reasonable requests for time off for antenatal care. The same goes for requiring a staff member to make the time up at a later date.
Pregnant workers must not be treated any less favourably for exercising their right.
This could lead to claims of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Antenatal leave for fathers
With soon-to-be mothers covered, you should also remember a father’s rights to attend antenatal appointments.
To clarify, the rules are slightly different for:
- Civil partners.
- Those who stand to become parents through a surrogacy agreement.
Staff members in these “qualifying relationships” may take reasonable time off for antenatal appointment. This is unpaid time off to attend:
- Two antenatal appointments (taking up to 6 and a half hours on each occasion).
Deciding to take time off to attend these antenatal appointments does not impact an individual’s entitlement to paternity leave.
All of the above rules relating to time off for antenatal care will also apply to qualifying agency workers who have been placed with the same hirer for at least 12 weeks.
Your other requirements
There’s currently no statutory obligation for friends or other extended family members to take time off to accompany an expectant mother to an antenatal appointment.
However, you may choose to offer enhanced rights to antenatal leave for certain employees as a way of recognising a variety of family dynamics.
Ultimately, it’s good business practice to outline their approach by creating a policy on time off for ante-natal appointments. You should review that on a regular basis.
The policy will act as an important reference guide for staff and ensure your approach to antenatal leave doesn’t breach British laws.
Need further advice?
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