Imagine the scene, you have set up an important meeting or job that has taken MONTHS to sort out so that all parties can get together on the right date. Your key employee though, hast just asked you for that time off so he can go with his partner to an antenatal appointment. What’s the situation legally?
Father’s and partner’s rights to attend appointments
Expectant fathers, or the partner (including same sex partner), have the statutory right to take time off work to attend two antenatal appointments. Not so great news, the time off is capped at 6.5 hours per appointment and is an immediate right from day 1 of employment. The better news, unless they are the one giving birth to the baby or the nominated primary carer (for adoptions), the employee has no right to receive any pay . The only exception to this unpaid rule is where the employment contract states otherwise, but that right is rarely granted by our smaller employers in the private sector.
To see if the employee can take time off especially as there is a critical meeting to attend, we need to consider the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Is it reasonable?
Unhelpfully, the Act doesn’t say under which exact circumstances a request can be refused. But it does say that an employee can make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal if the employer “unreasonably” refuses to give them the time off. In a nutshell, it will all depend on what’s reasonable in the circumstances. Our advice, don’t outright refuse, as it could be asking for trouble.
A good option instead of flatly refusing is to discuss the situation and see if you can reach an agreement on the solution that you can both live with. It could be that if the request was very last minute, it would be reasonable to refuse it as it should always be made in advance. CAUTION – You can’t insist a father or partner moves an antenatal appointment to another time and/or date as that arrangement is made by the baby’s mother.
Don’t demand the appointment evidence
Whilst you aren’t entitled to ask the expectant father or partner for any evidence of the antenatal appointment, e.g. an appointment card or other confirmation as that evidence is the sole property of the expectant mother and you have no right to see it, you could ask if they can help you to find out if that appointment is actually taking place.
THE GOOD NEWS – Eligibility declaration
You CAN ask the employee to complete an antenatal appointment eligibility declaration in which they confirm:
- That they qualify for the unpaid time off through their relationship with the mother or child;
- The time off is for the purpose of attending an antenatal appointment with the expectant mother; and
- The appointment been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife
The form isn’t a legal requirement, but the employee will forfeit their right to time off if you ask for it and they fail to complete it.
For a FREE COPY OF THIS FORM, please contact us before 30th September 2018 and we’ll whizz it over to you.