Labour Research May 2016

Law Queries

Time off for antenatal care

Q. Can an employer refuse to allow a pregnant member time off for antenatal care?

A. As a matter of good practice, employers should not refuse. There are also statutory rights under sections 55-57 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA96).

Under the ERA96, a pregnant employee who has made an ante-natal care appointment (on advice of a registered medical practitioner/midwife) is entitled to reasonable time off to attend the appointment during her working hours. She is entitled to paid time off.

However, if asked by her employer, the pregnant employee must provide a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and a document evidencing the appointment. The only appointment for which this is not required is the first ante-natal appointment the employee has asked for time off to attend.

The ERA96 does not define ante-natal care. But Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance states that employers should give pregnant employees time off for ante-natal care, including “medical examinations, relaxation, parenting classes”.

If a pregnant employee is unreasonably refused time off for the appointment, or the employer refuses to pay her for the time off, this will give rise to a potential employment tribunal claim. Prompt legal advice should be sought on limitation periods.

Union reps play a vital role in encouraging employers to adopt good practice and comply with maternity legislation. This is a good way to raise the profile of the union among female workers and potential members.