On 1 October 2014 the right for an employee or agency worker (please note that there are qualifying requirements for agency workers) who has a ‘qualifying relationship’ with a pregnant woman or the child she is expecting will be entitled to unpaid time off during working hours to accompany the woman to two antenatal appointments. This is up to a maximum of 6.5 hours off work for each appointment. This right is contained in the Children and Families Act 2014.
The qualifying relationship
A qualifying relationship is:-
- the husband or civil partner of the pregnant woman,
- the person, being of a different sex or the same sex, lives with the woman in an enduring family relationship but is not a relative of the woman,
- the father of the expected child,
- a parent of the expected child by virtue of section 42 or 43 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, or
- a potential applicant for a parental order under section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 in respect of the expected child.
Making the request
The employer is entitled to request proof of the qualifying relationship, that the appointment is made on the advice of a registered medical practioner/nurse and the time and date of the appointment. This can be achieved by making a written declaration.
Can the request be declined?
Yes, an employer can decline a request when it is ‘reasonable’ to do so. There is no guidance within the legislation what ‘reasonable’ constitutes but we expect it is likely to be deemed reasonable for an employer to refuse a request made at short notice where cover cannot be obtained for example.
If it is found that an employer unreasonably refused to allow the employee time off, the Employment Tribunal could award compensation which would be the equivalent to double their hourly rate for the time they were entitled to take off (hourly rate x 2 x 12 hours).
If you are an employer you should ensure your employees and HR department are informed of this new right and that any relevant policies are updated. We can help to update your policies.
Vicky Allum, Solicitor, Just Employment Ltd.