Traditionally, the focus for family friendly policies has been maternity entitlements but, as numbers of registered adoptions increases, employers and employees alike need to be aware of their rights in relation to adoption leave and pay.

From day one of their employment, employees who meet qualifying criteria are entitled to up to 52 weeks adoption leave. To qualify the individual has to be an employee, give the correct notice and provide documentary proof if required by the employer. Employees have to give notice to their employer within 7 days of being matched with a child, or if not achievable as soon as possible, that includes: how much leave they wish to take, the start date of the leave and the date the child will be placed with them. Documentary proof, if requested by the employer, is usually a matching certificate from the adoption agency. The leave can either begin from the date the child starts living with the employee or up to 14 days before this.

Where there is a joint adoption of a child, the main adopter (who will be the main adopter and who will be the secondary adopter is a decision to be taken between the couple, and is only for the purposes of deciding who will take which type of leave) may take adoption leave and the other either paternity leave or shared parental leave. The main adopter is also entitled to paid time off for up to five adoption appointments whereas the secondary adopter is only entitled to unpaid time off for up to two appointments. The employee can work up to ten ‘keeping in touch days’ during the period of adoption leave though any days to be used, and the amount of pay for these days, should be mutually agreed in advance by the employer and employee.

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) is payable to eligible employees for up to 39 weeks. The first 6 weeks is paid at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings and the remaining 33 weeks is paid at the lower of the statutory rate, currently £139.58, or 90% of the average weekly earnings. Employers can run a company adoption pay scheme, in the same way as a maternity pay scheme, which offers more than the statutory rate but cannot offer less. To be eligible for SAP the employee needs to have worked for the business for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks by the week they were matched with the child and earned an average of £112 or more a week, alongside giving the correct notice and proof of the adoption.

Adoption leave and pay may also be available to employees who are adopting from overseas, fostering for adoption or having a child through a surrogacy arrangement but the rules on eligibility are slightly different.