Change to employment law: new rights of fathers and partners of expectant mothers

Since 1 October 2014, fathers and partners of an expectant mother are entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the expectant mother to ante-natal appointments.

The new entitlement is part of a number of Government measures designed to ‘achieve greater involvement of both of the child’s parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy’.

At present, only the expectant mother is entitled to take time off work to attend ante-natal appointments. Perhaps this is why recent research has highlighted that a third of fathers do not take any time off before the birth of their child.

The new entitlement is found in the Children and Families Act 2014. It allows employees to take unpaid leave for up to 2 ante-natal appointments with the total time capped at 6.5 hours per appointment, inclusive of travel and waiting time.

In order to qualify, the employee must be the baby’s father, or mother’s spouse, civil partner, or partner in an enduring relationship. This includes same sex couples and parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement.

Employees gain this entitlement from the first day of their employment. However, agency workers will need to be working for the hirer for 12 weeks before their entitlement crystallises.

Employees will be able to claim twice their hourly pay for each hour they would have taken off to attend an ante-natal class, should an employer refuse them the time off. Employees are also protected from suffering detrimental treatment for exercising their entitlement and any resulting dismissal will be automatically unfair.

In view of these changes we recommend that employers review their current parental and family policies so that they reflect current employment law.

For more information on how this case may affect your business, please contact a member of our Employment team.

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