Antenatal care is the routine healthcare given to pregnant women, which helps diagnose any complicating obstetric conditions during a pregnancy.
Therefore, employment law in the United Kingdom entitles pregnant employees to reasonable paid time off (this includes travel time) for antenatal care. In total, the number of antenatal appointments is between seven and ten, though in some cases, this number would increase.
What Counts As Antenatal Care?
There is no specific definition for antenatal care within the law. It may include any type of appointments, classes, or scans, as advised by a registered medical practitioner, health visitor or midwife.
However, antenatal care may include classes on parentcraft, relaxation, or smoking cessation if recommended by a general practitioner or midwife. You may also need documents or an appointment letter from your GP or midwife, saying that you are taking these classes as part of your antenatal care.
If you have a pre-existing health condition or a high-risk pregnancy, it means that you are likely to require more antenatal appointments than normal. To find out more about this, you can contact your general practitioner or midwife, who will explain the importance of attending antenatal appointments and why you need extra classes or appointments.
Key Points Relating to Antenatal Appointments
Employment law in the UK entitles pregnant employees to take reasonable paid time off for antenatal care on the recommendation of a registered medical practitioner. The time off can be utilised for health checkups, parent-craft classes, and relaxation classes.
Also, employees must provide their employer (on request) with an appointment card or other documents, which show that an appointment has been made (this is not required for the first appointment).
Furthermore, women can expect to have up to ten antenatal appointments for a first child. Similarly, if an employee has previously given birth, then she may only require about seven antenatal appointments. Here, it is important to know that the number of antenatal appointments is not fixed – it varies according to individual cases of pregnancy.
Fathers And Partners
The law also entitles fathers and civil partners of a pregnant woman to take unpaid time off during working hours and accompany them to two antenatal appointments.
There is no legal stipulation that allows them to take paid time off for such commitments. However, some employers may allow their staff to take this time off with pay under conditions mentioned under the contract of employment, or allow them to swap shifts, take annual leave, or makeup time.
Surrogacy Parents and Adopters
While the main adopter is entitled to take paid time off for up to five adoption appointments, the secondary adopter is only entitled to take unpaid time off and accompany their partner to two appointments.
Having said this, the number of unpaid antenatal appointments may extend from two for couples who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement. For this, they need to be eligible and apply for a Parental Order for the child.
Time Off And Pay For Antenatal Care
UK employment law entitles pregnant women to take ‘reasonable’ paid time off for travelling, appointments and waiting time. During this time off, their employers cannot ask them to make up the time or arrange their appointments outside working hours. However, they can expect the female employee to schedule antenatal appointments so as to cause minimum disruption to the working hours.
If you work part-time, you must try to arrange your antenatal appointments on non-working days. If it is not possible, you can request your employer to allow paid time off.
You are also entitled to be paid at your normal hourly rate, as though you didn’t take time off from work. If you work for a varying number of hours per week, your employer must calculate your average hours over the 12 full weeks prior to the appointment.
If there are any weeks in which you didn’t show up for work, those weeks should be excluded from the calculation and the employer must use an earlier week.
You must also remember that if your employer refuses to give you paid time off for antenatal care, you are eligible to make an employment tribunal claim. Furthermore, if your employer terminates your employment because you asked to take time off, this counts for an automatic case of unfair dismissal.