As of 1 October 2014 an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman is entitled to take time off to accompany the woman to up to two antenatal appointments. The right is not paid, and an employer can refuse to allow the time off if it is reasonable to do so (though there is no guidance on what is reasonable).

This development is part of the suite of changes introduced as a result of the government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces, which was launched with the stated intention of creating ‘a society where work and family complement one another’. It has been heralded by some as a further step forward in terms of the march of employment rights (along with Shared Parental Leave). However, given that many employers would already allow an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman to take reasonable unpaid time off work to attend a scan or other antenatal appointment, what difference will the new right really make in practice?

This development is part of the suite of changes introduced as a result of the government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces, which was launched with the stated intention of creating ‘a society where work and family complement one another’. It has been heralded by some as a further step forward in terms of the march of employment rights (along with Shared Parental Leave). However, given that many employers would already allow an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman to take reasonable unpaid time off work to attend a scan or other antenatal appointment, what difference will the new right really make in practice?

However, one interesting legal question arises. Under the current maternity regime pregnant employees are entitled to take paid time off work to receive antenatal care (and a pregnant woman will typically attend ten antenatal appointments). Employers can expect that the partner of a pregnant employee may try to argue that to not provide paid time off may be potentially discriminatory. While there may be an arguable case, our view is that such a practice is not discriminatory. This is because the appropriate comparator in such a case would be a female partner of a pregnant woman, and not the pregnant woman herself (an approach supported by the recent case of Shuter v Ford Motor Co Ltd in which a Tribunal decided that an employer did not discriminate by paying only the statutory rate of additional paternity pay to a male employee on additional paternity leave). Furthermore, maternity legislation provides that special treatment may be afforded to women in connection with pregnancy, and it would be inappropriate to afford a partner the same special treatment.

In terms of future developments in the ‘modern working’ arena, employees and agency workers who are proposing to adopt will have a new right to time off work to attend adoption appointments from 5 April 2015.

Further details of the right to time off for antenatal appointments can be found here.


Posted on 06/10/2014 in Legal Updates

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