February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Right to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to ante-natal appointments

By Donal Moon Did you know that agency workers and employees will be entitled from 1 October 2014 to take six and a half unpaid hours off on two occasions to accompany a pregnant woman to ante-natal appointments? Agency workers only qualify for the right after 12 weeks in the same assignment, but employees have the right from the moment their employment starts. The right applies to the husband or civil partner of the pregnant woman, the father of the child, an intended parent in a surrogacy situation or someone who is living with the pregnant woman in an “enduring family relationship” but is not a relative of the woman. Any dismissal of an employee for exercising or trying to exercise this right will be automatically unfair. This means that the employee does not need the usual two years’ employment to bring a claim and this right exists from day one of their employment. Both employees and workers will have an additional claim against an employer, hirer or work agency who treats them unfavourably because they have taken time off or attempted to take time off. In addition, if an employer unreasonably refuses a request for such time off, a Tribunal could order the employer to pay twice the hourly rate for the period when the individual would have been entitled to be absent had the request not been refused. It is therefore difficult to understate the importance of employers having policies in place to help them deal with requests for time off in accordance with employee’s legal rights and to ensure that managers have sufficient understanding of what they are expected to do. This will help to ensure that employers do not end up facing Tribunal claims, substantial compensation and potentially expensive legal bills.