Paternity leave rulesFrom the beginning of October, your employees will get the statutory right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments if they are in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman.
As part of the new Children and Families Act 2014, any employees and agency workers who are in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman have the statutory right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments.

This right begins as soon as the employee joins your company; there is no qualifying period. A qualifying relationship is where your employee is:

  • a pregnant woman’s husband, partner or civil partner (not necessarily the natural father);
  • the father of the child;
  • the parent of the child; or
  • an intended parent in a surrogacy situation who meets specified conditions.

If you have any employees who qualify for this time off, remember that they only have the right to attend two antenatal appointments, and can be away from work for a maximum of six and a half hours for each one.

The appointment needs to have been made on the advice of a registered:

  • medical practitioner;
  • midwife; or
  • nurse.

Unlike any pregnant employees you may have, you can’t ask to see an appointment card, or any other proof of an antenatal appointment. However, you can ask the employee or agency worker to make a written declaration stating:

  • that they have a qualifying relationship with the expectant mother (that they are the father of the child or the woman’s spouse or partner);
  • that the reason for requesting time off is to attend an antenatal appointment;
  • that the appointment has been made on the advice of a medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse; and
  • the date and time of the appointment.

Also unlike your pregnant employees, those who are in a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman have no corresponding right to be paid during this time.

It’s up to you if you want to pay your employee for this time off, or ask them to use their annual leave entitlement instead. If they choose not to use their annual leave, they can still take the time off on an unpaid basis.

Make sure that you inform your workforce of this new entitlement by updating relevant policy documents (those relating to maternity/paternity rights and parental leave) and, where appropriate, staff handbooks.

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