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The 1st of October sees new rights for fathers. An expectant father or partner to a pregnant woman, will be entitled to take time off work to accompany the expectant mother to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments up to a maximum of 6.5 hours for each appointment.

However, in contrast to the rights of pregnant women, the time will not need to be paid time. All employees will be eligible for this time so, for employees, there is no qualifying service period. Agency workers will qualify after 12 weeks in the same assignment.

There are also some definitions in regard of the relationships that qualify for these rights.

The person has a qualifying relationship with a woman or her expected child if:

  • They are the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner.
  • They live with the woman, whether in a heterosexual or same sex relationship in an enduring family relationship but is not a relative of the woman.
  • They are the expected child’s father.
  • They are of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under the assisted reproduction provisions in the Human Fertilisation Act 2008.
  • They are a potential applicant for a Parental Order in relation to a chid who is expected to be a surrogate mother.

Employers are entitled to ask for an employee to provide a declaration that they are in a qualifying relationship, the date and time of the appointment, its purpose, and that the appointment is on the advice of a nurse, doctor or midwife.

The fact that the time off may be unpaid is of a relatively small consolation to the employer. Disruption to a production process or to service provision, as with any absence, may be of significant cost. Other practicalities such as can the employee insist on working the remainder of their working day (perhaps only an hour), and can the employer refuse the time off, remain to be answered.

Building relationships with employees so there is mutual cooperation over this matter may be more productive than standing on rights.