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From tomorrow fathers and partners, including surrogate parents, have the right to take time off work to attend up to two ante-natal visits.
The new legislation, which will apply from day one of employment, allows for up to two visits for a maximum of 6.5 hours each. To be eligible dads and partners need to have a “qualifying relationship” with the pregnant woman or the child. More than one employee may have visit rights with the same woman, for instance, if the father and the partner of the woman are different.
Agency workers may also be entitled to the leave, depending on how long they have been with their agency.
Other legislation coming in from 1st October covers equal pay audits. If an employment tribunal finds there has been a breach of equal pay legislation after 1 October, it must order an equal pay audit of the company involved, unless any exemption applies, for instance, if the benefits of the audit will not exceed the disadvantages of carrying it out. The results of the audit should be made public. From 1st October, the national minimum wage will rise from £6.31 to £6.50 an hour.
Commenting on the changes, Emily Chalkley, Associate at Charles Russell LLP, said: “Employers should consider adopting a clear policy of how requests [for antenatal visits] will be dealt with and the parameters for refusal. Employers could be liable for compensation payable at twice the hourly rate for the period when the employee would have been entitled to be absent.”
She added that for equal pay audits employers could be subject to a fine of up to £5,000 if they do not comply with an order to carry out an equal pay audit. She stated: “It is recommended that employers take pre-emptive action such as considering their pay practises and carrying out a pay review to mitigate the risks of successful gender pay claims.”
Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said: “Nearly forty years on from the Equal Pay Act, there is simply no excuse for employers who pay people less because of their gender. These new rules mean that companies who break the law on equal pay will be forced to evaluate their pay structures to prevent further violations.”