The myths surrounding time off to attend GP, medical, and dentist appointments
A hot topic in the world of HR, and one we are asked regularly, are my Employees allowed time off to attend GP, medical and dentist appointments and do I need to pay them for the time?
As an Employer it can be difficult sometimes to know the answer to all of your Employee HR questions, that is where we can assist you, so in our article today we answer your questions for you, and of course dispel myths surrounding this topic.
Just what can you do in this circumstance (and other/s), for example, is the leave paid or unpaid? is it permitted, can you stipulate when appointments are taken, and can you make your Employee take Annual Leave; we have taken a look at some of the common questions.
Is there legislation that permits leave to be taken for GP, medical, and dentist appointments?
It is true that there is no statutory right to time off for GP, medical, and dentist appointments, nor whether this be paid or unpaid to attend routine GP, medical or dental appointments.
It is worth noting however, that you may have Employees who do have the contractual right to time off in these circumstances and, depending on the individual terms of their Contract of Employment, the time may be either paid or unpaid, the Contract of Employment may also indicate a ‘maximum’ duration for each appointment.
As an Employer you would not be acting unreasonably to request Employees make their GP, medical, and dentist appointments outside of their normal working hours, where this is practically possible, you may also want to add that any such appointments are made at either the beginning or the end of the working day, therefore minimising disruption to your operations/service levels.
Can I Request they take Annual Leave Instead?
Once again you would need to refer to the Employee/s individual terms of the Contract of Employment, based on the assumption their Contract allows you to, you could:
- request or allow for them to take time off from their annual leave entitlement
- if they have no unpaid and untaken annual leave entitlement, then you could give them the time off as unpaid leave
- alternatively, you can agree with them to make up the time on a different day
How do I communicate this to my Employees?
You should have policy and procedure in place within your business, this could either be added to your Employee Handbook or separate policy and procedure, you should ensure you set out the details of your policy and procedure covering the areas above.
Your policy and procedure should set out what is expected of your Employees, and also what procedures they should follow, and of course, any consequences should they fail to do so.
As an Employer, you should act reasonably when dealing with requests and we always advise that you use a fair and consistent approach when dealing with time off for GP, medical, and dentist appointments.
What about Emergencies?
We all know that becoming poorly doesn’t always come with warning, in this instance GP, medical or dental emergencies requiring unforeseen, and or urgent medical or dental attention should be treated appropriately.
In this instance, as an Employer you would treat the absence as such, bearing in mind more than likely to fall within the remit of sickness absence, you should refer to your sickness and absence policy and procedure and follow your guidelines including payment.
What about Hospital Admissions?
In the instance where Employee/s are admitted to hospital, this may be to undergo an operation or they are undergoing tests; as the Employer you would treat this as sickness absence and either statutory or contractual sick payments would be due to your Employee whilst they are in hospital and possibly recuperating.
What about Employees who have Antenatal Appointments?
All Pregnant Employees have a specific statutory right under ss.55 and 56 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to reasonable time off work, and this is with pay to attend antenatal appointments made on the advice of a GP, doctor, midwife, or registered nurse.
Antenatal care does not just include medical examinations, it can include other appointments such as:
- relaxation Classes
- parent craft Classes
As an Employer can I ask for proof of appointments?
As an Employer, whilst you cannot for the first appointment, you can request the Employee produce a medical confirmation of the pregnancy, this is called a Mat B1 form, you can also ask for an appointment card which will show that the antenatal appointment has been made.
Can prospective fathers/prospective partners take time off too?
An Employee who is the prospective father, or the partner of the pregnant person, can take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments, you may have a policy and procedure that allows your Employer to take paid leave, this would then be contractual, you should check and pay accordingly.
What if my Employee has a disability?
Employees with disabilities may need time off for medical appointments as a result of this; as an Employer, you should work with your Employee and give the time as requested.
As an Employer failing to allow for paid time off for medical appointments connected with disabilities, could be deemed as discrimination arising out of a disability, which can result in an unlimited compensation payout at the employment tribunal.
Remember, to act reasonably, and fairly, to have policy and procedure that it is communicated and understood in your business, to also ensure you have Contracts of Employment adhering to contractual terms contained within these for your Employees; we find time and time again that businesses that take this approach will see a reduction in sickness levels, we also find it reduces attrition rates and creates a culture that is positive.
How can we help?
We are experts dealing with your HR and Employment Law matters, we can assist you should you need our support with time off for appointments, policy writing, or Contracts of Employment, you can contact one of our team today and we can assist you; contact us on: 0333 0069489 or email us on: [email protected]
This article contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.
HR and You Ltd, owns the copyright in this document. You must not use this document in any way that infringes the intellectual property rights in it. You may download and print this document which you may then use, for your own internal non-profit making purposes. However, under no circumstances are you permitted to use, copy, or reproduce this document with a view to profit or gain.
In addition, you must not sell or distribute this document to third parties who are not members of your organisation, whether for monetary payment or otherwise.
This document is intended to serve as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. This document should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a HR and You Ltd Consultant or a member of our legal team.
In no circumstances will HR and You Ltd, or any company within HR and You Ltd be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information contained within this document or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.