Can I take time off work to attend antenatal classes?

Yes. From day one of your employment, your employer cannot 'unreasonably refuse' you paid time off to attend antenatal classes during working hours when you are pregnant. This includes time travelling to and from the appointments. Parentcraft and relaxation classes can be included in the term 'antenatal care', but you may find it helpful to show your employer proof from your GP or midwife that states that these classes are part of your care. You should request the time off rather than assume you can take it.

Except for the first appointment, your employer has the right to ask that you produce proof from your GP, health visitor or midwife that you have an antenatal care appointment. If they ask you for this proof and you are unable to provide it, then they have the right to refuse you the time off.

You are not under any obligation to make up the 'lost' hours to your employer at a later date or to take annual leave to cover the time off.

If your employer unreasonably refuses you time off or will not pay you for the time off, you can make a complaint to an employment tribunal. Your employer's actions may also amount to pregnancy discrimination, and possibly harassment. You should seek specialist advice as soon as possible. Likewise, if you are dismissed, disciplined or otherwise treated unfavourably for taking or trying to take time off for antenatal care, you should have a claim for compensation.

In any of these situations, you should seek advice from your trade union, a specialist charity such as Maternity Action or a legal advisor.

Agency workers with 12 weeks’ service doing the same kind of job with the same hirer also have this right to time off to go to antenatal classes.

Fathers-to-be and partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments as long as they are employees or agency workers with 12 weeks’ service doing the same kind of job with the same hirer.

Parents in a surrogacy arrangement who qualify for and intend to apply for a Parental Order also have this right.

The time off is capped at six and a half hours per appointment.

The employer is not allowed to ask for evidence of the appointment. This is because the appointment card belongs to the expectant mother. However, the employer can ask for a signed declaration stating the date and time of the appointment and confirming that the employee is in a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child and that the purpose of the time off is to accompany her to the appointment, made on the advice of a GP or midwife.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.