All pregnant employees, however long they have been in their jobs, are entitled to reasonable time off work for antenatal care. Any time off must be paid at your normal rate of pay.
From 1 October 2014, the right to attend such appointments was extended such that qualifying employees can accompany a pregnant woman to the appointment.
You do not have to tell your employer the reason for your first antenatal appointment, simply stating a doctor’s appointment instead, but be aware that you cannot ask for paid time off if you don’t explain why. Your employer cannot ask for written evidence of your antenatal appointments until your second appointment onwards. If asked you should show your employer a medical certificate showing you’re pregnant and an appointment card or some other written evidence of your appointment. If you have not already received your MAT-B1 form (link to MAT-B1 Form (www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/matb1-guidance.pdf)), which you won’t get until you’re at least 20 weeks pregnant; you can ask your GP or midwife for some other written evidence.
It is unlawful for your employer to refuse to pay you at your normal rate of pay for any time off but it can refuse to give such time off if reasonable to do so. There is no guidance or case law to determine when it may or may not be reasonable to refuse.
Antenatal care may include relaxation or parent craft classes as well as medical examinations, if these are recommended by your doctor. Any classes must have been recommended by a medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor and should be medical rather than educational. If you can, try to avoid taking time off work when you can reasonably arrange classes or examinations outside working hours.
Pregnancy is not a sickness and therefore taking antenatal appointments does not count as sick leave. You might be ill because of your pregnancy (e.g., morning sickness) or for an unrelated reason, such as catching a bad cold. If you do need to take time off work for a pregnancy-related illness then it doesn’t count towards your sickness record. If your employer usually provides sick pay then you will still be entitled to this. If your company doesn’t offer sick pay you can apply for Statutory Sick Pay. Your employer should record any pregnancy-related sick leave separately from other sick leave and it should not count towards your total sickness absence for disciplinary or redundancy purposes. It is against the law for your employer to dismiss you or treat you less favourably because of your pregnancy or for having taken sick leave during your pregnancy. Your employer can only ‘trigger’ your maternity leave if you are off sick for a pregnancy-related reason in the four weeks before your baby is due.
If you are working part-time, you should note that the right to take time off for antenatal care is within reasonable working hours, so it would be reasonable for your employer to expect you to make arrangements for antenatal care outside of your working hours as far as possible.
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