Fathers and the workplace Contents

2Antenatal appointments

29.Antenatal appointments, including scans to identify any anomalies with the baby’s growth, are a key service which provide important health information for expectant mothers. In October 2014, the Government introduced a new day-one right for employee fathers and partners to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments. When introducing this, the Government said it was a “major step in the government’s measures to encourage involvement of fathers with their children from the earliest possible stages.”49

30.Fathers who are agency workers are required to have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks to be eligible for this right. In contrast, all mothers who are agency workers have a day-one right for unpaid time off to attend all antenatal appointments, and if they have worked for the same company for 12 weeks they are entitled to paid time off to attend such appointments.

31.The Government told us that:

it is important that fathers are involved from an early stage. Approximately two thirds of fathers took some time off work to attend antenatal appointments before their child was born. Fathers were most likely to do so if they were part of a dual earner family or had a higher annual household income.50

This suggests that less well-off fathers are less likely to take up this right and that if the time off were paid rather than unpaid, that could make a difference.

32.We heard that lack of awareness of the policy and obstructive employers can also be barriers to fathers taking up this entitlement. One father told us he had not been aware of his entitlement to attend antenatal appointments, and had instead taken annual leave in order to attend. Other fathers told us they knew of work colleagues who had been refused time off to attend antenatal appointments.51

33.A father of twins told us that the restriction of the policy to fathers attending two antenatal appointments could pose difficulties in the case of multiple births because of the additional appointments needed: “My first challenge with twins is that you have additional antenatal appointments to go to [ … ]. In the worst case this can be every two or four weeks until they are born.”52

34.There is a statutory right to time off for ante-natal appointments but some employers may be putting hurdles in the way of fathers exercising this right. Fathers should not be prevented from attending appointments because they cannot afford to do so, are not aware that they have this right or because their employer does not allow them to.

35.Fathers who are employees should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right. Agency worker fathers should be entitled to unpaid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day-one right, and to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments once they have been with the same company for 12 weeks. The Government should consider whether the entitlement to attend two appointments is sufficiently supportive for parents of multiple babies or where other factors mean additional appointments are required.

49 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, New rights for fathers and partners to attend antenatal appointments, 2 October 2014

50 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (FWP0054)

51 Q85-86 (Session 2017–19)

52 A member of the public (FWP0004)

15 March 2018