Extension of family-friendly rights for employees and agency workers

Year Published: 2014

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills has this week published a guide on the new right to unpaid time off to accompany an expectant mother to antenatal appointments.

Pregnant employees and agency workers currently have a legal right to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments. From 1 October 2014, the right to attend such appointments is being extended. This will mean that fathers-to-be or the partner of a pregnant woman will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the woman to up to two of her antenatal appointments.

This new right is part of a wider government initiative to promote greater involvement of both parents from the outset.

How will this affect your business or you personally as an employee?

The key points to note are as follows:

  • The right applies to employees and qualifying agency workers;
  • Employees have this right from day one of their employment. Qualifying agency workers are required to have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks;
  • The rights extends to the following people:

– The baby’s father;

– The expectant mother’s spouse, her civil partner, or partner in an ‘enduring relationship’ (no definition within the BIS guide, however this does refer to the relationship being ‘long-term’ elsewhere);

– The intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child.

  • The time off is capped at 6.5 hours per appointment, however, employers are free to extend this or allow employees to take annual leave;
  • 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;
  • An employer can request an employee to provide a signed declaration stating:

– That the employee has a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child;

– That the employee’s purpose in taking time off is to accompany a pregnant woman to an antenatal appointment;

– That the appointment in question is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse;

– The date and time of the appointment.

  • If an employee or agency worker is denied this right by their employer or hirer they can complain to the Employment Tribunal and may be awarded compensation calculated as twice the hourly rate of pay for each of the hours that the person would have taken off if the right had been respected;
  • If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise these rights, the dismissal will be automatically unfair.

The area of family friendly rights has undergone numerous changes over the last few years, including changes to the right to request flexible working which came into force on 30 June 2014.

This new right now places further emphasis on employers to support the family unit where possible; however, capping the right at two appointments (and placing no obligation on employers to pay for this time) goes some way to striking a balance with the needs of the business.

For more information on the new legislation or any other employment matters, please contact our Employment team on 0161 475 7676.

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