The government is committed to promoting family friendly policies and, as of 6 April 2003, has introduced paid leave for parents that adopt. The allowances apply where the baby is born, on or after, 6 April 2003.

Leave

Eligible employees will have at least 26 weeks continuous service for the same employer, by the week in which they are notified of being matched with a child for adoption. These rights are afforded to employees who become parents of a child newly placed for adoption.

Qualifying employees are entitled to the same pattern of leave entitlements as new mothers. Ordinary adoption leave (OAL) runs for a period of 26 weeks, after which the parent is entitled to an extended period of Additional adoption leave (AAL) for a further 26 weeks.

The rights don't extend to both parents. Only one will be eligible for the paid leave, while similar to paternity leave the other parent will be entitled to two weeks' paid leave. This leave allowance is in addition to the right to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave, for parents with children born, on or after 15 December 1994.

The new OAL and AAL, means that new parents that adopt a child now have the right to take up to one year's leave in total.

Pay

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) follows the same formula as SMP and SPP. For children placed for adoption on or after 6 April 2003 SAP is paid at £102.80 per week. As with SMP, the first six weeks of leave will be paid at 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings. If earnings are less than the statutory amounts, employees will be paid at 90% of average weekly earnings. Employers can and do pay above these statutory amounts.

To alleviate the strain on small businesses, they can recover the amount of SAP they pay out in the same way as they can claim back Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Employers can claim back 92% of the payments they make, with those eligible for small employers relief able to claim back 100% plus an additional amount in compensation for the employer's portion of National Insurance contributions paid on SAP. Employers that pay over and above the statutory minimum requirement for SAP can only claim back the statutory amounts not the full cost of the SAP payments paid to their staff.

Contractual benefits

Terms and conditions of employment including holiday leave and pay accrue during the leave period, bar terms relating to wages and salary (unless the contract of employment provides otherwise). If more favourable terms are stipulated in the contract of employment the employee may take advantage of these over and above the statutory rights.

Notification

Within 7 days of being notified that they have been matched with a child for adoption, employees must inform their employer of their wish to exert their right to take adoption leave and pay. This notification must stipulate the day on which they expect the leave to start. OAL can start from the date the child is placed with them for adoption, or any date up to 2 weeks before the expected date of placement.

Employers may request evidence in order to authorise the leave and SAP. Verification may be provided via provision of a matching certificate, provided by the adoption agency. Employees applying for SAP, should notify their employer at least 28 days before they start the pay period to start, or if this is not reasonable as soon as is practicable.

Employees who wish to apply for adoptive paternity rights must follow the notification rules laid out in the regulations for paternity leave.

Parents who adopt children from overseas are also eligible for the leave and pay. Notification rights in this situation vary slightly. Parents should notify their employer of the date in which they received the initial notification from the adoption agency, the proposed date that the child will enter the UK, the proposed date for the start of the adoption leave period and the actual date the child enters the country.

Protection from dismissal and detriment

Employees are entitled to return to the same job following the end of the OAL leave period. If the employee returns to work following the AAL period, they are entitled to return to the same job or if that is not reasonably practicable, an appropriate alternative job. Employees are protected from suffering unfair treatment or dismissal for taking, or seeking to take, adoption leave. Employees who believe they have been treated unfairly can complain to an Employment Tribunal.