Some tests, such as screening for sickle cell and thalassaemia, should be done before you’re 10 weeks pregnant. Most antenatal classes start when you’re around 30 to 32 weeks pregnant.
You have a statutory right to reasonable time off with pay to attend antenatal appointments if you’re an employee or if you’ve worked as an agency worker in the same role with the same school or college for at least 12 weeks.
To qualify, the appointments must have been made on the advice of a medical practitioner, midwife, or health visitor. Antenatal care is not restricted to medical examinations. It can include appointments that you are advised to make with your GP or midwife and any appointments for scans or classes. There is no limit on the number of antenatal appointments that you can attend. Your right to paid time off for antenatal care includes reasonable travel and waiting time.
You must seek permission to take the time off. You are not required to provide evidence of your first appointment, but your employer can ask you for proof of subsequent appointments. You might be asked to provide a letter or appointment card confirming that your classes are part of your antenatal care. If you are asked to provide evidence of subsequent appointments, you won’t be entitled to take the paid time off until you have provided it.
You should give as much notice as you can. Employers can request that disruption is minimised as much as possible e.g., by organising appointments at the beginning or end of the day but they should not refuse reasonable paid time off if you are unable to reschedule. There may be little flexibility over appointment times and clinics may be busy. In many cases it will not be possible to schedule your appointments outside of the school day or on your non-working day if you work part time. You should not be deterred from attending your appointments – they are important for your health and for the health of your baby.
A pregnant teacher should not be asked to schedule antenatal appointments in her PPA time. PPA time is protected; how you use this time is at your discretion. Your PPA time should be used exclusively for the planning, preparation and assessment that you, as a professional, deem necessary for your work. You must not be directed to use PPA time for another purpose. If you have been pressured to schedule an antenatal appointment during your PPA time to help your employer, your time should be rescheduled for you to use at a different time in the week.
Prospective fathers or a mother’s partner can take unpaid time off work to attend up to two ante-natal appointments if they are an employee or if they have worked as an agency worker in the same role with the same school or college for at least 12 weeks. A maximum of 6.5 hours can be taken for each appointment. The NEU recommends that employers should agree the time off to be on full pay.
You have the right not to be subjected to a detriment on the ground that you have exercised or proposed to exercise your right to take time off or be paid for time off for antenatal care.
- Familiarise yourself with your terms and conditions – they should be listed in your letter of appointment. Seek out the maternity and absence policies that apply in your school or college - your NEU workplace rep or school office should be able to help you locate them.
- Use and share the practical pack of NEU Being pregnant at work resources. Advocate for your school to adopt the NEU model policy – to improve the working conditions of other pregnant women at work.
- Find out from other women who have been pregnant at work whether they faced any barriers to taking time off for antenatal appointments.
- Chatting with other women at work to find out how they overcame any barriers can help you navigate protecting your rights at work.
- When you are invited to an antenatal appointment, email your head or line manager the date and time as soon as possible so that cover can be arranged. If you are an agency worker, you’ll need to give notice to your agency and the school or college. You can use our sample notice [neu.org.uk/maternity]. You can also attach the checklist for leaders on supporting pregnant women at work or you can ask your NEU rep to bring the checklist to the attention of your employer/headteacher.
- Be prepared to provide evidence of your appointments (except for your first appointment) and your Maternity Certificate – MAT B1 – which you should receive after your 20-week scan.
- Keep records of your conversations and communications with your employer.
- Contact your NEU rep if you experience any difficulty in taking time off with pay to attend your antenatal appointments. If you need further advice about your rights at work, contact the NEU Adviceline on 0345 811 8111, or email us at [email protected].