Important changes to Family Friendly regulations

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From 1 October 2014, there is a new right for fathers, partners and parents to take unpaid time off work to accompany a pregnant women to up to two ante-natal appointments.

Although there is no need for employees to satisfy any qualifying period of service before being eligible for the right, they will need to be in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman or her expected child.

What is a Qualifying Relationship?
For employees to be eligible to request time off to attend antenatal appointments they need to satisfy one of the following conditions:

the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner.
the pregnant woman’s partner (including same sex partner) who is in an enduring family relationship with her and not a relative.
the father of the expected child.
one of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under assisted reproduction legislation.
the potential applicant for a parental order in relation to a child born to a surrogate mother.
If the husband/partner is not the father of the child, both of them will each have the right to time off.

Agency workers will also have the right to take time off but in addition to satisfying the relationship test referred to above, they must have done the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks.

Employers can choose to (but don’t have to) ask the individual making the request to provide a signed declaration confirming that they have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman (or the expected child), that the purpose of the time off is to accompany the pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment, the time and date of it and that the appointment is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Unpaid leave
The new right is to unpaid time off, limited to two appointments lasting no more than six and a half hours each which is deemed sufficient time to cover travel, waiting and attendance at the appointment.

What happens if I don’t comply with these changes?
It is important to ensure that line managers who may be dealing with requests for time off are fully aware of the new right because an individual who is unreasonably refused time off to accompany a pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment can bring an Employment Tribunal claim.

There is also protection from being subjected to a detriment and employees are protected from dismissal. Significantly, any dismissal is automatically unfair and no qualifying period is necessary.

If you would like further information on these or any other changes to regulation – please call us we would be happy to help.

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