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Employers ‘failing to grant leave for antenatal appointments’

Employers are making it difficult for women and their partners to take time out of work to attend vital midwife appointments.

That’s according to a survey of 300 UK mums who have given birth in the past five years – carried out private midwifery services specialist Private Midwives and published in its UK Maternity Report.

It found that more than 1 in 4 (28%) women said their partner was unable to attend midwife appointments due to their workplaces not granting the necessary time off.

The research also revealed that 25% of respondents said that their partner was unable to be involved in the pregnancy as much as they wished.

As a result, this can impact on partners’ mental health as they lose the opportunity to gain reassurance, support and advice, in advance of the labour.

The news comes after Strictly Come Dancing dancer, Gorka Marquez, revealed how he struggled when girlfriend, Gemma Atkinson, started to haemorrhage immediately following the birth of daughter, Mia.

18-29 year olds were the most likely to report that they had to attend midwife appointments alone due to partners not being permitted time off, with almost 1 in 3 (30%) of this age group reporting this was the case.

1 in 10 women surveyed said that their employer seemed to be uncomfortable with the number of midwife appointments they needed to attend.

Legislation states that pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable, paid time off for antenatal care. Fathers, partners and civil partners of pregnant women are entitled to unpaid time off during their working hours to attend up to two antenatal appointments. 

Employers who refuse to grant time off could be taken to an employment tribunal.

The research found that a quarter (25%) of pregnant women would prefer midwife appointments to be available outside office hours or at the weekend to avoid these kinds of difficulties.

Linda Bryceland, Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives, said: “Antenatal appointments are crucial way in which we support and advise not only mum but their partners too. Each appointment is an opportunity for partners to feel involved in the pregnancy, discuss how they are feeling, which is such a special opportunity for both parents. It’s heart-breaking that employers are making it difficult for partners to be involved in this special time, despite legislation being implemented by Government to prevent this happening. This legislation aims to achieve a greater involvement of both child’s parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

“By attending antenatal appointments from the early stages, partners will feel more involved in and will have a better understanding of the journey that they and the baby’s mum are on. This can contribute to a more positive birth experience – as it means both partners have had the opportunity to ask questions, learn and be reassured about the birthing process from the outset. Our services offer appointments outside of working hours so couples can attend together, as we understand the importance of both partners receiving support and guidance during the pregnancy.”