Nowadays Britain’s employment laws change more regularly than ever in order to support the changing lifestyles and family structure of modern British culture.
One significant employment law recently that recently came into effect is in respect of authorised absence for antenatal classes. However, this alteration is not solely not for the benefit of pregnant women, but for their partners instead.
The request to take time off from work to attend antenatal classes is not an infrequent request, it’s actually an important and certainly controversial employment law issue.
This kind of request affects all areas of employment law and every form of UK business. If you are running a company in the UK it’s best to take some time to familiarise yourself with these new changes for the benefit of both you and your employees.
Fathers and partners have antenatal rights
The partner of a pregnant woman now has the right to take unpaid time off from work to attend at least two antenatal appointments per year. However, these appointments must last no longer than six and a half hours each.
In order for these occasions to be made valid the working partner must be part of a “qualifying relationship” with the woman, which means that they must fit into at least one of the following personal criteria:
- Be the expected child’s father;
- Be the husband or civil partner of the mother-to-be;
- Be living at the same residence as the mother-to-be;
- Be in a private relationship with the mother-to-be;
- Be part of a same-sex relationship with the mother-to-be, and quality as the child’s parent in accordance with assisted reproduction provisions;
- Not be a relative of the mother-to-be;
- Be the intended carer of the child once the baby has been been born to a surrogate mother.
The rules for absence
This new legislation may have been introduced to acknowledge the changing social structure of modern British families, but there are, however, several unclear definitions of exactly what scenarios the new law deems to be an acceptable form of absence, as the law states that permission will only be granted under ‘reasonable’ circumstances.
This creates leeway for both employees and workers as such ambiguous legislation opens the floor to debate about what should be deemed a reasonable request.
Finding a middle-ground between both parties through negotiation could potentially solve any legal issues, but overall the power in these cases is mostly held by employers, who in most cases will have the final say over what they consider reasonable.
Rules & consequences
In order to avoid legal issues it makes good sense for an employer to have a set of clearly defined rules in place regarding their business’s policy towards antenatal permission before any such request can be made.
Employers should tread carefully though because if an employee should take their concerns to an employment law solicitor and subsequently to an employment law tribunal where they win their right to antenatal attendance, the business in question will have to provide compensation comparable to double the hourly rate for the period of time that the employee originally requested to take off from work. Not to mention the bad publicity that such a cases would bring.
Regardless of whether you’re an employee or business owner, any concerns you have relating to employee absence should be dealt with as soon as possible. Contact a UK employment law solicitor today to understand your rights as a UK worker.
This blog was submitted on behalf of Nationwide Employment Lawyers. Visit Natemplaw.co.uk to speak with an expert employment law solicitor now.
Please note that whilst every effort is made to maintain accuracy of the content in this article; we cannot take responsibility for any errors. This author is not an Employment Lawyer or HR Specialist and this cannot in any way constitute a substitute for Employment Law advice. All facts should be cross-checked against other sources. Should you require specific Employment Law advice, then we recommend that you contact Nationwide Employment Lawyers.