If an employee wants to go to the dentist, doctor or optician in work time, are you obliged to give them the time off? And if so, do you have to pay them?

Routine appointments

You may allow employees time off work to attend these appointments, but employees do not have a statutory right to time off. It will be subject to the terms and conditions in their Contract of Employment.

Employers may decide to pay for this time off or not. You may ask employees to try and get appointments outside of working hours or at the very start or end of the day to minimise disruption levels. You may decide to set certain limits on how long they can take off for each appointment or not have any rules on this at all. You may ask to make up the time lost another day or ask them to part of their annual leave entitlement to cover the absence.

You may also set out the specific procedure that needs to be followed. For example, the employee must notify their manager X days in advance of the appointment and obtain approval to take time off.

New mothers and fathers

Pregnant employees have the right to paid reasonable amount of time off to attend antenatal care appointments. The right extends not only to medical appointments but any made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or nurse for the purpose of antenatal care. This may include relaxation classes and parentcraft classes.

An expectant father is entitled to take time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to her antenatal appointments. Unlike the right afforded to expectant mothers, the employers have no statutory obligation to pay the accompanying partner for the time off. They can attend up to a maximum of two appointments with each time capped at 6 hours and 30 minutes per appointment.

Read our Q&A on antenatal appointments for more information.

Disability

If an employee has a disability, they may be required to attend frequent doctor’s appointments, counseling, rehabilitation or treatment.

Under the Equality Act 2010, to be classified as disabled, the worker needs to show they suffer from a long term (i.e. 12 months or more) physical or mental impairment which has a substantial (i.e. more than trivial or minor) impact on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Employers have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to make sure disabled workers are not seriously disadvantaged when fulfilling their role.

An example of a reasonable adjustment is allowing a person who has become disabled more time off work than would be permissible to non-disabled workers to enable them to have rehabilitation training. Therefore, you should consider whether it is reasonable to allow the employee paid time off to attend medical appointments, treatment or counselling that is related to their disability. Remember that a failure to make reasonable adjustment constitutes discrimination.

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