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Document updated/added on 01.02.2021

Topic: Work and parents

Response to antenatal appointment request
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Response to antenatal appointment request

Response to antenatal appointment request

Pregnant employees have a statutory right to take paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments. Where they request time off, use our letter to respond to them.

Statutory right

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, all pregnant employees are entitled to take paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse (for these purposes, the registered nurse will be the employee’s health visitor). This is a day one right and the employee should be paid during their absence at their normal hourly rate of pay, calculated by dividing one week’s pay by the number of normal working hours in a week. Where working hours vary from week to week, the calculation is based on average working hours over the previous twelve weeks. Importantly, antenatal care isn’t just hospital appointments, scans and pregnancy health checks. It can also include parenting or relaxation classes if they’ve been recommended by the employee’s doctor, midwife or nurse. If it’s not immediately apparent whether a particular class is pregnancy-related, ask the employee for confirmation that they’re attending on medical advice related to their pregnancy. Our Response to Antenatal Appointment Request confirms the date and time of the antenatal appointment and that the employee can take paid time off for it.

Evidence

Except in the case of the first appointment during pregnancy, you can ask the employee to produce a certificate from their doctor, midwife or nurse confirming that they’re pregnant and an appointment card or some other documentary evidence showing that the appointment has been made. Our letter covers requesting that evidence.

Timing of appointments

The legislation is silent on when time off can be taken during working hours. However, if you “unreasonably” refuse a pregnant employee time off for antenatal care (or you fail to pay them for any time off that is granted), they can make an employment tribunal claim. This indicates that their request for time off must be reasonable. So, it seems you can legitimately ask them to give you as much advance notice as possible of their appointments and to make them as close to the beginning or end of their working day as they can. However, do bear in mind that they may have little say over the timing. You can also encourage part timers to make a pro rata number of their appointments on non-working days. As for how long can be taken per appointment, as the statutory time off for a spouse/partner to accompany a pregnant person to antenatal appointments can be up to six and a half hours, it’s advisable to adopt a similar rule for the pregnant employee’s own antenatal care arrangements, even though that’s not specified in the legislation. In practice, most appointments should be much less than that.

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