According to research, one third of UK fathers do not take any time off work before the birth of their child.
In an attempt to promote greater involvement of both parents from the early stages of pregnancy, the Government has introduced a new right for expectant fathers (or the partner of a pregnant woman) to take unpaid time off to attend ante-natal appointments.
As of today (1 October 2014), an expectant father or the partner of a pregnant woman (including same sex partners) will be entitled to accompany her to up to two of her ante-natal appointments.
The amount of time off is limited to six and a half hours per appointment and, although employers are not entitled to ask for evidence of the appointment, they can ask for a written request. Such requests should include the date and time of the appointment and a declaration that they qualify for the unpaid time off as a result of their relationship with the mother or child and that the time off is for the purpose of attending a formal ante-natal appointment.
Employees asking for time off in these circumstances are afforded legal protection with no minimum qualifying service - failure to allow them to exercise this right can lead to compensation being awarded by an Employment Tribunal. Some employers are choosing to treat the time off as paid ‘ante-natal leave’, or being more generous in terms of how much time off they allow the employee to take, but whether you opt for the statutory minimums or something different, we would advise all employers to inform their staff of the new right through the appropriate channels and update their policies accordingly.