Article provided by Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula
According to a survey by private midwifery services specialist Private Midwives, employers are making it difficult for women and their partners to take time out of work to attend vital midwife appointments.
300 UK mums who have given birth in the past five years took part in the survey, they also found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) women said their partner was unable to attend midwife appointments due to their workplaces not granting the necessary time off. The research also revealed that 25% of respondents said that their partner was unable to be involved in the pregnancy as much as they wished. So what are employees entitled to?
Employees, including mothers, fathers and partners, have the right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments from day one of their employment. This right also extends to agency workers after they have completed 12 weeks with the same end-user. Employers must be prepared to facilitate this in the workplace and take steps to ensure that workplace policies fully outline these legal entitlements.
Expectant mothers are entitled to take an unlimited amount of paid time off during regular working hours to receive antenatal care. Employers must not expect them to make up this time up later. These appointments are not limited to medical examinations and can also include relaxation and parent-craft classes. The time taken off generally includes the mother’s travelling to and from the appointment.
After the mother has gone to her first appointment, the employer reserves the right to ask her to produce a certificate confirming the pregnancy, such as a MAT B1. They can also ask for an appointment card or document from a registered medical practitioner or midwife if the time off is for medical examinations. Or similar paperwork from a registered health visitor in the case of parent-craft classes.
Employees who are the baby’s father, or the spouse or partner of the mother, are entitled to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments with her. Time off for each appointment can be up to six and a half hours, although the employer can permit more time if they choose to. In this situation, employers can ask their employee for a written declaration. The declaration should confirm the date and time of the appointment, state that the employee has a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child. It should also confirm that the time off is to accompany the woman to an antenatal appointment and outline that this appointment is on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.
Although employers can refuse this time off for a reasonable reason, there is no specific guidance in the law on this, although the timing, length and frequency of the appointments could be a factor. If employers unreasonably fail to allow this right, they can face a tribunal claim. The claim may result in compensation which is twice the amount of wages the employee would have received had this time off been allowed. They could also face additional claims for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Peninsula is one of the UK’s premier companies, started in 1983 by Salfordian Peter Done with headquarters on the fringes of Manchester city centre. The company offers HR, employment law and health & safety support services to small and fast-growing businesses across the country, as well as tax and payroll advice, employee assistance programmes, and HR and health & safety training. Since its beginnings in Salford, Peninsula has now expanded into the furthest corners of the globe, operating in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.