Paid time off for antenatal care
You are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care provided that the care has been recommended by a doctor, midwife or health visitor.
Unsurprisingly, you are only entitled to paid antenatal care if you are pregnant, and your employer is entitled to ask for proof of your pregnancy before they pay up. Some kinds of employees are excluded (for example the police and armed forces).
What counts as antenatal care
Can I get paid for having pregnancy acupuncture?
Possibly. You are entitled to be paid for 'standard' visits to a doctor or midwife during the course of your pregnancy, but also for any other pregnancy-related appointments which a health professional has recommended. These could include: antenatal classes; alternative medicine such as hypnotherapy or specific pregnancy exercise classes, for example.
What about IVF?
There is a complicated European law on this. The position seems to be that appointments before a pregnancy occurs are not covered by the time off for antenatal care arrangements but if you were disadvantaged because of taking time off in relation to the latter stages of IVF, you might have a discrimination claim. It's not straightforward and you need to take advice if this has happened to you.
Compromising with your employer
Do I have to check that the time of the appointment is convenient for my employer?
It is always going to be a good idea to check with your employer first if you want time off for a particular appointment, and if your employer has a good reason for refusing a particular date then you would be expected to change it if possible. However, an employer is not allowed to act unreasonably in refusing you the time off.
This means that there needs to be a balance between your needs and that of your employer. So if you have got an urgent appointment to see a consultant about an issue that relates to yours or your baby's health, an employer is likely to be acting unreasonably in refusing to give you paid time off.
On the flip side, if your employer asks you to put off your pregnancy yoga class to attend the most important business meeting of the year, this would probably not be seen as unreasonable.
Do I have to make the time up?
No. Your employer cannot require you to make up the time that you have taken for these appointments.
Do I have to go to work before/after the appointment?
Generally speaking, yes. You are only entitled to paid time off for the actual appointment and any necessary travel and waiting time. So unless it is impractical for you to go into work before or after the appointment, your employer is not obliged to give you any further time off.
Can my employer ask me to use my annual leave entitlement for antenatal appointments?
No. You have a right to paid leave for antenatal appointments in addition to your holiday rights.
What sort of proof can my employer ask for?
Your employer is entitled to ask you to prove that you have an antenatal appointment, and will only be required to give you paid time off if you provide that proof. Normally that will be in the form of an appointment card or similar.
If the antenatal appointment is for something that is not obviously medical in nature then you may be asked to prove that it has been recommended by a health professional. So make sure that the doctor/midwife/health visitor provides some sort of proof that you can show your employer if they ask.
If you work part-time you can have a particular problem getting paid time off for antenatal appointments, as your employer may feel that you could easily make the appointments outside working hours.
The legal position is no different for part timers than for full timers - that is, your employer cannot unreasonably refuse to allow the paid time off, and there needs to be a balance between the needs of the employer and the pregnant employee. Often, part timers will have other commitments, including childcare, or other jobs, which means that they need to attend antenatal appointments during their working hours.
If an employer refuses to allow part time employees to have paid time off for antenatal care simply on the grounds that they are part time, then this is likely to be discrimination on the grounds of part time status, as well as potentially sex discrimination.
Rate of pay
You are entitled to be paid at your normal hourly rate. This may be specified in your contract, or you may be able to calculate it from your weekly rate of pay divided by the number of hours you work.
If you don't work a set pattern of hours then you work out your hourly rate for this purpose by taking an average of the 12 working weeks prior to the appointment. In most cases you should not include any overtime when working out your hourly rate - overtime can only be included if your contract specifically entitles you to it.
If you work as an agency worker, then you will not have the right to take time off for antenatal appointments unless you have worked for at least 12 weeks in your current role. If you have worked for that long, then you have the same rights as a permanent employee.
Being disadvantaged because of asking for or taking time off for antenatal appointments
Your employer is not allowed to disadvantage you in any way because you have asked for or taken time off for antenatal care. This extends to situations such as redundancy selection exercises where it would be unlawful to include time off for antenatal appointments when calculating how often a person had been absent, for example.
Can my partner come too?
At the moment there is no legal right for men to have paid time off for their partner's antenatal appointments, but the Government has said that it is 'good practice' for firms to allow fathers paid time off or the opportunity to attend appointments and then make time up. Some large firms do have provision for this, so it may be worth asking.Natasha Joffe and Lydia Seymour. Please have a look at our disclaimer and bear in mind that the information provided is no substitute for specific advice on your individual case.