From 1 October 2014, fathers and partners of a pregnant woman have the right to take unpaid time off to accompany the woman to up to two antenatal appointments. This right applies to the father of the child, the woman’s husband, civil partner, or anyone in a serious relationship with the woman. The right applies whether the child is conceived naturally or through donor insemination, and also extends to both parents who are using a surrogate (and the surrogate herself, of course). If the father of the child is someone other than the woman’s husband, civil partner or partner, he will also be entitled to the right to time off.
In all cases the time off is capped at six and a half hours per appointment and employees will qualify for this right from day one of their employment. An employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of antenatal appointments, such as an appointment card. However, an employer can ask for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment, that the employee qualifies for the unpaid time off through his or her relationship with the child and that the time off is for the purpose of attending an antenatal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.
This forms part of the Government’s wider initiative to encourage involvement of fathers with their children from the earlier stages (see also the article on shared parental leave inside). Government research has shown that a third of fathers do not take time off before the birth of their child and it is hoped that this new right will now allow fathers to do so.