October sees the introduction of brand new antenatal rights for fathers and partners to take time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to see a midwife or obstetrician.
The right is to time off on up to two occasions for a maximum of 6.5 hours each. Pregnant women normally attend around 10 antenatal appointments and it is open to employers to be more generous in how much time off they give to employees.
Eligibility for the new right depends on an employee having a “qualifying relationship” with the pregnant woman or the child.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published guidance on the new rights, which points out, among other things, that more than one employee may have a qualifying relationship with the same woman. For example, where the father of the child and the woman’s partner or husband are different people, both individuals may well be eligible to time off.
The new right, which is introduced on 1 October 2014, is a “day-one right”, so employees will not need to accrue a minimum amount of service with their employer before taking advantage of it.
Agency workers may also qualify for time off under the new right, however, their eligibility will depend on accruing the prescribed service.
Stephen Simpson, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “This new right will sit alongside the existing right for pregnant women to paid time off to attend any appointments for antenatal care.
“The right allows employees and some agency workers who qualify to take unpaid – although the employer could choose to make it paid – time off to accompany a pregnant woman to two antenatal appointments.”
He added that by the end of the month, employers should provide their staff details of the new right and review their documents, including their maternity, paternity and agency workers policies.
Intended parents in a surrogacy situation also qualify for the new right.