Antenatal appointments: can I take time off work to visit the doctor when pregnant?

Pregnancy can involve attending numerous antenatal appointments, but are you entitled to take time off work in order to attend them?

Friday, 18th October 2019, 2:57 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 3:58 pm
Pregnancy can involve attending numerous antenatal appointments, but are you entitled to take time off work in order to attend them?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What are my rights if I need to attend an antenatal appointment?

If you’re an expectant mother, then you are legally entitled to take time off from work in order to attend antenatal appointments.

Employees, including mothers, fathers and partners, have the right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments from the first day of their employment

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Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula, explains that “expectant mothers are entitled to take an unlimited amount of paid time off during regular working hours to receive antenatal care.

“Employers must not expect them to make up this time up later.”

Ms Palmer also notes that “these appointments are not limited to medical examinations and can also include relaxation and parent-craft classes.”

The time taken off also generally includes the mother's travelling to and from the appointment.

Do I have to provide proof of my appointment?

Although the mother is entitled to take time out of work to attend antenatal appointments, Ms Palmer explains that the employer reserves the right to ask for documented evidence of the appointments.

Ms Palmer said, “After the mother has gone to her first appointment, the employer reserves the right to ask her to produce a certificate confirming the pregnancy, such as a MAT B1.

“They can also ask for an appointment card or document from a registered medical practitioner or midwife if the time off is for medical examinations. Or similar paperwork from a registered health visitor in the case of parent-craft classes.”

Bounty.com explains that “a MAT B1 form, also known as the Maternity Certificate, is a form from the government providing medical evidence of pregnancy and the baby's due date.”

This is filled in by the pregnant woman’s doctor or midwife and is usually issued to her after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

You will also need a MAT B1 form in order to claim for maternity pay and benefits, whether you’re unemployed, self employed, full time or part time.

Can my partner take time off work to attend appointments with me?

Employees, including mothers, fathers and partners, have the right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments from the first day of their employment, add Ms Palmer.

“Employees who are the baby's father, or the spouse or partner of the mother, are entitled to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments with her,” notes Ms Palmer.

Time off for each appointment can be up to six and a half hours, but the employer can permit more time if they choose to.

If this occurs, then employers can ask their employee for a written declaration, which should confirm the date and time of the appointment, and also state that the employee has a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child.

This declaration should also confirm that the time off is to accompany the woman to an antenatal appointment, alongside outlining that this appointment is on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Can the father of my baby or my partner’s employer refuse to give them time off?

Employers can refuse this time off for a reasonable reason, but there is no specific guidance in the law on this, explains Ms Palmer, who adds that “the timing, length and frequency of the appointments could be a factor.”

“If employers unreasonably fail to allow this right, they can face a tribunal claim.”

This claim may then result in compensation, which is twice the amount of wages the employee would have received if this time off had been allowed.

“They could also face additional claims for unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination,” adds Ms Palmer.