All pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off to receive antenatal care. This right is applicable irrespective of hours worked or length of service.
Antenatal care is not restricted to medical examinations – it can include relaxation and parentcraft classes, provided that these are recommended by a registered medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor.
Employees in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman are entitled to unpaid time off to accompany them to two antenatal appointments (each lasting up to six-and-a-half hours, including travel and waiting time).
An individual will qualify if:
- They are the baby’s father.
- They are the pregnant woman’s spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner.
- It is an assisted conception and at that time they were her wife or civil partner, or gave the required legal notices to be treated in law as the second female parent.
- They are one of the intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement and expect to obtain a parental order in respect of the child.
Health and safety
Employers have a duty to assess the workplace risks posed to new or expectant mothers or their babies and, where necessary and reasonable, alter working conditions to avoid any significant risk. While teaching does not bring any specific risks, considerations may include lifting or carrying books or equipment, handling chemicals, or work-related stress.
An employee should not be treated unfavourably because of a pregnancy-related illness, and is entitled to sick pay. This means that all the usual conditions apply in accordance with the school’s sickness policy. If an employee is off sick for a reason relating to her pregnancy in the four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, this will automatically trigger the start of maternity leave.
Miscarriage and stillbirth
Where stillbirth occurs after 24 weeks, this is treated as childbirth, and an employee is entitled to maternity leave and other rights. A miscarriage or stillbirth prior to this is treated as sickness.
Alice Reeve is a partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards