I am currently 26 weeks pregnant. In the maternity policy where I work it states that pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable paid time off for antenatal care and appointments. Where I work they do rotas every week and since being pregnant I have only had one appointment in working time. Whenever I put my appointment request in they seem to adjust the rotas so that I have to go in my own time, even though I am working full time. The policy only states that if you are part time to try and arrange appointments outside of work, but if you can’t they will give you paid time off. It says full-time employees are entitled to paid time off and to try and not miss more than half a day at a time. I just feel that with working full time they should be accommodating me more rather than making me rush around more and going in my own time and not getting paid. Can you please advise me on this?
Pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours “for the purpose of receiving antenatal care”. It is generally accepted that the period of time off includes travel to and from the appointment. This is regardless of the number of hours that employee works, or their length of service.
There are no formalities for exercising the right. You simply need to inform your employer of the date and time of the appointment, ideally giving as much notice as possible, and if you can providing evidence of the appointment, for example, an appointment card.
An employer, may only refuse the time off requested to attend an antenatal appointment where it is reasonable to do so. Unfortunately, there is no guidance as to when it would be reasonable to refuse a request for time off and little case law in this area, although an example may be where an employee gives extremely short notice for a non-urgent appointment and cover cannot be arranged for the employee’s shift, or where the employee could reasonably make arrangements to attend the appointment outside normal working hours.
You have not provided details of when you have requested that such appointments be taken, nor have you given any idea as to whether your shifts can be covered, without too much disruption to others and the rota. However, I note that your employer’s policy states that if you are part time you should arrange appointments outside of work, but that full-time members of staff are entitled to paid time off during working hours. As I have said, your employer will need to show that it is not reasonably practicable for you to take these appointments during working time. However, since their own policy expects that full-time members of staff may need time off within working hours, (maybe taking into account that it may be difficult for full-time employees to attend antenatal appointments in their own time), on the facts you have given me and so long as adequate notice is given and they can provide cover you have a basis to stand your ground and attend appointments in work time, where necessary. You can state to them that you are aware of the policy and, where possible, you will endeavour to comply with the same and ensure that appointments do not mean that you will take more than half a day out of work, at a time.
Refusal to allow an employee time off, and any detriment to which they are subjected as a result of taking time off without permission, is likely to constitute both unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and a detriment under section 47C of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which may need to be considered if your employer refuses you the time off, without adequate grounds to do so.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further assistance in relation to your enquiry.