Employees who are expectant fathers, or the partner of a pregnant woman, will have the right to take unpaid time off work to attend antenatal appointments from 1 October 2014.
Employees accompanying the expectant mother to antenatal appointments will be entitled to unpaid leave for one or two appointments.
The time off will be capped at six and a half hours for each appointment and there is no qualifying period before employees can take up the new rights.
This is part of the government’s plans to achieve greater involvement of both of the child’s parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy.
As part of the legislation, an employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of the antenatal appointments, such as an appointment card, as this is the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment.
However, an employer can request an employee to provide a signed declaration which states: the date and time of the appointment; that the employee has a qualifying relationship with a pregnant women or her expected child; that the employee’s purpose in taking time off is to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment and that the appointment in question is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.
Clare Gregory, employment partner at law firm DLA Piper, said: “From 1 October 2014, expectant fathers, or the partner of a pregnant woman, will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend antenatal appointments with their partner.
“The government has said that research evidence shows that a third of fathers still do not take any time off before the birth of their child.
“It is hoped that a right to time off to accompany the expectant mother to her antenatal appointments will allow the other parent this opportunity where their employer might not otherwise give permission.
“This is a means by which the government aims to achieve greater involvement from both parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy.
“In practice, for employers this will mean allowing an employee up to six and half hours off for a maximum of two appointments.