Female employees have had maternity rights for many years but since 2003, fathers and adoptive parents have also had statutory rights to paternity leave and adoption leave. This also applies to same sex partnerships.

Adoption leave and pay are available both to individuals who adopt or one member of a couple where the couple is adopting jointly (a co-adopter). The couple has to choose which one of them will take the adoption leave. The co-adopter may also be entitled to paternity leave and pay.

An employee who has been newly matched with a child for adoption by an adoption agency can take up to 52 weeks adoption leave made up of 26 weeks Ordinary Adoption Leave and a further 26 weeks Additional Adoption Leave. There is no longer a length of service requirement in order to qualify.

Employees will need to provide documents to prove they are entitled to Statutory Adoption Leave. Generally speaking, this would be a matching certificate from a UK-recognised adoption agency. If the employee is adopting from overseas then different rules apply.

An employee may start their Statutory Adoption Leave either from the day that the child starts living with them or up to 14 days before they expect the child to come to live with them. An employee should tell their employer they have been matched with a child within seven days of being notified of the match.

Statutory adoption pay (SAP) is paid for 39 weeks and usually covers the first 39 weeks of an employee’s adoption leave. There are different eligibility criteria for SAP for UK and overseas adoptions. As an employer, you can recover some or all of your SAP payments from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).