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16 September 2014

New right for fathers to attend ante-natal appointments

The new right for fathers (or the partner of a pregnant woman) to take unpaid time off work to accompany the mother to ante-natal appointments comes into force on 1 October 2014.

The new right was introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014 and allows an expectant father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, to take unpaid time off work to accompany the woman to up to two ante-natal appointments. It forms part of the Government’s strategy for achieving greater involvement of both parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

This is a new ‘day one’ right for employees and so does not require any qualifying period of employment.  Agency workers (if they are not employees of the agency) are entitled to take the time off after 12 weeks. The right applies to the baby’s father, the expectant mother’s partner (of either sex) or the intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement.

The amount of time off is capped at a maximum of 6.5 hours per appointment (to include travelling and waiting time). An employer is not entitled to request any proof of the ante-natal appointment, but can ask the employee to provide a signed declaration that they qualify for the time off as a result of their relationship with the mother, as well as the date and time of the appointment.

An employee who is refused time off to attend an ante-natal appointment can be awarded compensation by an employment tribunal of twice the hourly rate of pay for each hour they would otherwise have taken off.  The also have protection from any detriment as a result of seeking to exercise the right.

Guidance for employers

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has issued guidance for employers on the new right. The guidance deals with some of the tricky circumstances that may arise, including who qualifies for the right to take leave if a woman’s husband is not the father of the child (answer: both the father and the woman’s partner/husband), or how many appointments a male employee can attend if he is an expectant father with two women concurrently (answer: two appointments with each). As the guidance points out however, it is hoped that these circumstances will not arise very frequently in practice.

A copy of the guidance is available here.