There is no statutory right for employees to take time off during working hours for this purpose. Where an employee is pregnant, they have the right to a reasonable amount of time off to attend antenatal appointments made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or registered nurse. The prospective father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, has the statutory right to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments. 

Otherwise, it will be a question of whether or not the employment contract or a contractual policy entitles employees either paid or unpaid time off for this purpose. If not, then employees should be reminded that they need to organise dental and medical appointments for outside working hours, wherever possible. In the case of urgent medical or dental appointments, time off for this purpose may be recorded as sickness absence and the employer’s sickness pay provisions will apply. 

Where an employee needs to attend medical appointments during working hours due to a disability, the employer is required to permit the employee time off for that purpose (which could be unpaid in the absence of a contractual procedure that provides otherwise) where this would be a “reasonable adjustment”. 

Whether or not permitting a disabled employee some or all of the time off requested for medical appointments is reasonable will depend on the length of time off required, how easy it is for the employer to accommodate this, the employer’s resources and how practicable it is to obtain staff cover during the employee’s absence. 

The onus is on the employer to prove that it isn’t a reasonable adjustment where a request for time off by a disabled employee is declined.

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