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Partners Receive Right to Attend Antenatal Appointments under New Law
New rules came into effect on October 1 to allow fathers and partners to attend up to two antenatal appointments. The changes became law through the Children and Families Act 2014, and represent a major shift from traditional views of pregnancy as predominately a mother’s concern.
The measure will ensure that the time obligations for husbands and partners are acknowledged, and will encourage their involvement from the early stages of the pregnancy in tandem with the government’s Shared Parental Leave provision. ‘Partner’ includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person of either sex in a long-term relationship with her.
Minister of Employment Relations Jo Swinson said: “Parenting is a shared endeavour and we want to encourage full involvement from fathers from the start. The right to time off work to attend antenatal appointments will help dads and partners play an important role in the early stages of pregnancy and will kick start a culture change in workplaces and help men feel more confident talking to their employers about taking time off for childcare.”
Previously, there had been no legal provision to allow the partner to attend these appointments, subjecting each case to the decision of the respective employer.
Under the new law, an employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of the antenatal appointments. However, they are entitled to ask the employee for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment and the details of their situation to ensure the employee meets the criteria. The entitlement only applies to employees and agency workers that have fulfilled their 12-week qualifying period.
The new rules set the stage for the Shared Parental Leave system, which comes into effect next year, for babies due on or after 5 April 2015. Under the scheme, working couples will be able to share untaken maternity leave and pay.
“The next step is introducing shared parental leave in April 2015, giving mums and adopters real choice about when they return to work and dads more time to bond with their children. Employers will benefit from lower staff turnover and having a workforce that is more flexible and motivated,” Swinson said.