Pregnant employees have the right to paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments but do you know exactly what appointments you need to allow time off for, or how requests for these appointments should be managed? Our five most frequently asked questions about this subject should help you manage this situation safely and effectively in your business.
Which appointments are included in this right?
Any appointments recommended by a midwife or other registered medical practitioner comes under this request. Ordinarily, this would include midwife appointments, doctor check-ups, scans or other medical appointments, however it can go wider than that. For example, ante-natal swimming groups, parenting classes or yoga are usually something an employee decides whether to attend, so wouldn’t come under this right, but if these types of sessions have been recommended by a medical practitioner, you also need to allow paid time off for those.
What proof can I ask for?
You can ask your employee for an appointment card, unless the request is in relation to her first appointment. Bear in mind that many people don’t bother with cards now, and may be more likely to record appointments on their phone or other device, so if you are going to require appointment cards, do let your employee know.
Can I insist my employee makes appointments outside working hours, or at the end or beginning of the day?
You can certainly request your employee to avoid disruption to work where possible, but you can’t insist, and you may find your staff member has very little if any control over when appointments are. Often clinics are held on specific times or days each week, and some medical professionals are more helpful than others at accommodating patients’ requests regarding convenient appointment times. In addition, appointments can end up being delayed if clinics run late, meaning that you may find your staff member spends longer than anticipated at appointments.
With a part time employee, you can certainly request the employee to make appointments on her days off if possible, but again, you can’t insist.
Under what circumstances can I refuse time off?
Not many! You can refuse time off if your employee is unable to provide proof of the appointment (except the first one), or if she is unable to demonstrate that the appointment is recommended by a medical practitioner.
You may also be able to refuse time off work if you reasonably believe the employee can attend without needing time off work. For example, if parenting classes or similar sessions are available in the evenings or at weekends, and your employee seeks paid time off work to attend a daytime session, you may be within your rights to refuse, however be very careful before you do this and take advice as to whether your actions in refusing time off would be reasonable in the specific circumstances in question.
I have an employee whose partner is pregnant. Do I need to give time off for accompanying her to her ante-natal appointments, and if so, does this time need to be paid?
At the moment, no you don’t need to allow this. Most supportive employers would try and allow partners to attend at least the more important appointments such as anomaly scans, either paid, unpaid, using holiday or making the time up later. However from October 2014 you will be obliged to allow time off for partners to accompany pregnant employees to at least two appointments anyway.
If you’d like advice on managing pregnancy in your business contact us on 0800 180 4998 or email info@face2faceHR.com.