Antenatal appointments14 Oct 2014
On 1 October 2014, changes to the Children and Families Act 2014 meant that certain individuals became entitled to take unpaid time off work for up to two antenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy. Here, Kuits’ Head of Employment Kevin McKenna tells both employers and employees what they need to know about the Act.
Starting this month, employees will be allowed to take off up to six and a half hours per antenatal appointment. This right will apply to: the baby’s father; the pregnant woman’s spouse, civil partner or partner in an enduring relationship; and intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement where there will be a potential application for a parental order.
“Employers will not be able to ask for evidence of the antenatal appointment,” says McKenna. “However, they can ask the employee to sign a declaration stating the time and date of the appointment, that their relationship to the mother or child is one that qualifies them for the right, and that the time off is needed to attend an antenatal appointment made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.”
Employees will not need a qualifying service period for this right to arise – it will apply from their first day of employment. If employers do not uphold this right, employees could then mount a claim at employment tribunal, so long as they do so within three months of the date of the appointment they wished to attend.
“If an employee is successful,” says McKenna, “compensation can be ordered of up to twice the employee’s hourly rate of pay for each hour they would have taken off if the right had been properly allowed by the employer. This can therefore be up to 26 hours salary.”
Employers must also beware of placing an employee at any disadvantage due to their exercise of this right. If an employee is dismissed due to exercising, or trying to exercise, this right, this will be deemed to be automatically unfair.
“Where this happens,” says McKenna, “employees do not need a qualifying period of two years employment to bring a claim, so employers must be aware of this from day one for new employees. If not, employers could be at risk of having to make large payments to successful claimants.”