Adoption: your workplace rights

Adopting a child can be a hugely exciting time for people looking to grow their families. There are a host of different paths that lead people to adoption, but – during such a rewarding time – it’s important to do your research and find out, legally, where you stand.

Catherine Kerr | Partner and Head of Employment Law

What is adoption leave?

Adoption leave means someone taking time off because they are adopting a child. They are entitled to both statutory adoption leave and pay by their employer.

In England and Wales, single people, married couples, civil partners, same-sex couples and unmarried couples are all entitled to adoption leave and pay.

Starting the adoption process

If you are in a couple, you must decide who is to be the official “adopter” in order to claim statutory adoption leave and pay. Following this, your partner may also be entitled to parental leave and pay from their employer.

If you are single, you will become the sole “adopter” and will be entitled to the same statutory adoption leave and pay as the official “adopter” in a couple.

During the adoption process, you are entitled to time off work to attend meetings and appointments relating to the adoption. The “adopter” is entitled to take paid time off for up to five adoption appointments, and a partner can take unpaid time off for up to two appointments.

What are my statutory rights as the “adopter”?

The government’s statutory offering is similar to those taking maternity leave and pay, which include;

  • Up to 52 weeks’ statutory adoption leave (split into 26 weeks’ ordinary adoption leave and 26 weeks’ additional adoption leave);
  • Statutory adoption pay for up to 39 weeks*
  • The right to return to the same job or a suitable and appropriate alternative job
  • Protection from detriment or dismissal relating to adoption leave, and
  • In cases of redundancy, you are entitled to be prioritised for any suitable alternative roles within your employer’s business.

*When it comes to pay entitlements, there are certain criteria which must be met before you are entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay;

  • You must have been working continuously for one company for at least 26 weeks before you are matched with a child
  • Your average weekly earnings must be at least equal to the lowest earnings limit for National Insurance contributions

The partner of the “adopter” or the secondary adopter may be entitled to paternity leave and pay, or shared parental leave.

How much statutory adoption pay am I entitled to?

Statutory adoption pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You can receive:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks;
  • £145.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lowest) for the remaining 33 weeks.

Your adoption pay is paid in the same way as your wages and income tax and national insurance will be deducted.

When does adoption leave begin?

It is at your discretion when you choose for your adoption leave to begin, but it typically starts when;

  • The child starts living with you or up to 14 days before they do
  • You have been matched with a child from a UK adoption agency
  • The child arrives in the UK or within 28 days (for overseas adoption)

Extra entitlements and requirements to be aware of

Whist it is a legal requirement for companies to provide statutory adoption leave and pay to its employees, some employers choose to offer more favourable contractual adoption leave and pay packages above the statutory requirements. This is at the discretion of your employer and must be discussed directly with them.

Couples who already have children and choose to adopt a child may also be entitled to shared parental leave. Again, this can be discussed directly with your employers.

Before you go off on adoption leave, both yourself and your employer must agree when and how you will keep in contact. This can be through email, telephone, face-to-face contact, but you should agree which days will be your ‘keeping in touch’ days. There is no requirement on your employers for these days to be paid, but this should agreed with your employer directly.

The laws relating to statutory adoption pay can be a complex area to navigate. For further advice or detailed guidance, please contact me on Catherine.kerr@primaslaw.co.uk.

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