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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.

Antenatal appointments, IVF

Pregnancy at work

What you need to know


Antenatal appointments and IVF treatment

Am I entitled to paid time off for antenatal care and how much time may I take?

Your employer is legally required to allow you reasonable paid time off for antenatal care during working hours if you are an employee and have provided your employer with a certificate confirming that you are pregnant, such as a MATB1 [confirms your pregnancy and gives the expected week of birth]. This includes not only medical examinations but also, for example, antenatal classes as recommended by a registered doctor, midwife or health visitor. Your employer can only turn down a request for time off if it is reasonable for them to refuse.

What is reasonable time off for antenatal care depends on such things as, how long the appointment is, how often you take time off and the amount of notice you give your employer. For example, it may be reasonable for your employer to refuse you the time off if you do not give much notice, the appointment is not urgent, or your employer cannot get someone to cover your work.

Do I have to provide proof of an antenatal appointment?

Yes, after the first antenatal appointment, you must provide proof of your appointments, an appointment card or similar, if your employer asks you to do so.

You must also have provided your employer with a certificate confirming that you are pregnant, such as a MATB1 (which confirms your pregnancy and gives the expected week of birth). You are not entitled to time off for antenatal care until you have done so.

I work part-time. Can my employer ask me to attend antenatal appointments on a non-work day?

Your employer must not unreasonably refuse to allow you to attend antenatal appointments during normal working hours. If your employer asks you to change your appointments to a non-working day, and it is not reasonable, this may be pregnancy discrimination.

Can I be penalised for taking reasonable time off for antenatal care?

You must not be disadvantaged in any way for either taking time off or asking for reasonable time off or for antenatal appointments. This would be pregnancy discrimination.

My manager makes inappropriate comments whenever I attend an antenatal appointment. What can I do?

It is pregnancy discrimination to make inappropriate comments about taking time off for antenatal appointments or, for example, comments implying that you are rarely at work.

Generally, it is advisable to tell your manager that their comments are upsetting and explain you are entitled to take time off for antenatal appointments. You may want to raise the issue with your human resources team, if there is one.

How you address the issue depends on the circumstances including the relationship you have with your manager, the impact of such comments on your health and whether you fear that if you complain you might lose your job. If you lose your job as a result of raising a complaint of pregnancy discrimination, this would be victimisation which is unlawful.

If you are a union member speak to your union representative.

If the treatment continues you could put in a grievance, setting out the details of what has happened. It may be best to take advice, as raising a grievance may lead to a worsening of the employment relationship.

Is my partner allowed to take time off work to come with me to antenatal appointments?

Yes, your partner’s employer is legally required to give your partner time off work to accompany you to two of your antenatal appointments [up to six and a half hours for each appointment]. Your partner must provide written confirmation of the appointments, [a declaration] if their employer requests this information. Their employer is not legally required to pay them for the time off.

For more information see the Department for Business Innovation & Skill publications: 

I am an agency worker. Am I entitled to time off for antenatal care?

After you have worked for 12 weeks in the same job your employer is legally required to allow you reasonable paid time off to go to antenatal appointments or classes if you cannot reasonably arrange them outside working hours.

Am I protected from being treated less favourably if I am undergoing IVF treatment?

Your protection from pregnancy discrimination begins when fertilised eggs are implanted; it is only then that you are treated as being pregnant. If the implantation fails, the protected period, during which you must not be treated less favourably, ends two weeks later.

Pregnancy-related illness (which may include illness in connection with the IVF treatment) during the protected period must be ignored by your employer when making decisions based on your sickness absence levels (for example about discipline, redundancy, promotion, pay rises etc)

I am undergoing IVF treatment; am I entitled to time off for appointments?

No, but you can ask your employer for time off. Employers are not legally required to provide time off for IVF treatment. If you are refused, you may want to ask for annual leave instead to attend appointments.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s Guidance for Employers recommends that employers treat requests for time off for IVF treatment sympathetically and that it is good practice for employers to establish procedures for allowing staff to take time off for IVF and fertility treatment.

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(change of work duties, bullying/harassment, partners' rights)
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