Do employees have a right to time off to attend doctor or dentist appointments?

There is no general statutory right to time off, either paid or unpaid, to attend routine medical or dental appointments. However, employees may well have a contractual right to time off in these circumstances and, depending on the terms of the employment contract, this might be either paid or unpaid and a maximum duration for each appointment might be specified. It is not unreasonable to request employees to make doctor and dentist appointments outside of normal working hours insofar as this is possible, or at least to make sure that appointments are made at either the beginning or the end of the working day so as to minimise disruption.

Medical or dental emergencies requiring urgent, unforeseen medical or dental attention are likely to fall within the remit of sickness absence, as are cases where the employee is to be admitted to hospital as an inpatient, for example to undergo an operation. In this case, either statutory or contractual sick pay will be due.

Pregnant employees have a specific statutory right under ss.55 and 56 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to reasonable time off work with pay to attend antenatal appointments made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or registered nurse. Antenatal care may include relaxation and parent craft classes as well as medical examinations. Except in the case of the first appointment, the employer can require the employee to produce medical confirmation of the pregnancy (a Mat B1 form) and an appointment card showing that the antenatal appointment has been made.

An employee who is a prospective father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, can take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.