[This is part two of a three part series on the “employer-friendly” policies which the Coalition Government have implemented during their tenure.]
The employer-friendly policies have the aim of reducing potential liabilities on employers in order to encourage employment within the workplace. With the lowest unemployment figures since late 2008, 1.96 million at the end of September 2014, this gives added scope for the Government to suggest that these new policies have assisted that aim.
In this post I will discuss the introduction of time off for ante-natal appointments for fathers or partners in October 2014.
Before this update, the right to paid time off during working hours "for the purpose of receiving antenatal care” extended only to pregnant women. However, as of 1st October 2014, an expectant father or the pregnant woman’s partner will be entitled to paid time off work to attend two antenatal appointments. The maximum time permitted per appointment is six and half hours which includes time for travelling, waiting and attendance at the appointment.
Employees and qualifying agency workers will be eligible to the time off if they are either:
- the baby’s father or parent;
- the expectant mother’s spouse, civil partner or partner in an enduring relationship; or
- intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement.
This right will apply to an employee regardless of their length of service, although it will only apply to agency workers after they have completed 12 weeks service.
This additional right may cause concern for some employers as to how they are able to verify the employee’s antenatal appointment or whether they satisfy the criteria which would allow them to attend. Employers cannot ask for evidence of the appointment, for example the appointment card, as this is the pregnant woman’s property. However, the employer can ask for written confirmation from the employee confirming:
- That they are in a “qualifying relationship”, either with the pregnant woman or the expected child (including surrogacy);
- That they are taking the time off to accompany the pregnant woman to the ante-natal appointment, having been arranged on the advice of a registered medial practitioner, midwife or nurse; and
- The date and time of the appointment.
If employers do not permit the employee to take this paid time off, an employment tribunal can award the employee a payment equivalent to twice the hourly rate of pay for each hour that could have been taken off. Further, if an employee is dismissed for taking time off work to accompany a woman to an antenatal appointment, that dismissal will be automatically unfair.
These new rules are part of the Government’s plans for both parents of a child to be involved in caring for their children, in advance of a new entitlement in 5th April 2015 for employees to take shared parental leave with the mother of the child in the first year of their child’s life or in the first year after their child’s placement for adoption.
Please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call on 01908 660 966 if you have any questions about taking this leave to attend an ante-natal appointment – I’d be happy help. Are you an employer – have you had employees take this leave to attend an ant-natal appoint? I would be interested to hear your feedback on how this has helped or hindered employee management and morale in your business.