Last week was National Adoption Week; an annual event that aims to raise awareness of adoption and the children who need loving and permanent homes. National Adoption Week is a great opportunity to celebrate the joys and benefits of adoption, as well as to raise awareness of the challenges that adoptive parents may face.

But what are the legal obligations on employers towards employees who are going through the adoption process, and what steps employers might take to foster a positive and inclusive workplace.

Adoption Leave and the workplace

Deciding to have a child by adoption is a life-changing decision. Adoption will inevitably impact on every aspect of a parent’s life, including professionally, as adoptive parents are likely to need time off to prepare for the adoption, bond with the child, and deal with any challenges that may arise, particularly during the early stages. Employees who feel supported in the workplace while on their adoption journey are likely to enjoy a more positive experience both inside and outside of work when embarking on this life-changing event, which should help promote wellbeing and a culture of inclusivity within the organisation.

It is important for both employers and employees to be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities regarding adoption leave and pay, as well as the best practices that employers can implement to support adoptive parents within the workplace.

Adoption leave and pay – the highlights

Adoption leave and pay are statutory entitlements that apply to employees who are adopting a child, fostering a child permanently, or having a child through a surrogacy arrangement where there is a ‘parental order’, providing they meet the relevant requirements under the statutory regime.

Adoption leave allows an adoptive parent to take time away from work following an adoption, in the same way an employee might take a period of maternity leave following the birth of a new baby. Adoption pay provides an entitlement to minimum pay for the employee during that time away from work.

What adoption leave are parents entitled to?

If an employee is eligible for adoption leave, they can take up to a total of 52 weeks of leave, which consists of 26 weeks of ‘ordinary adoption leave’ and ‘26 weeks of ‘additional adoption leave’.

Adoption leave can start either from the date the child is placed with the employee or up to 14 days before the expected placement date.

How much pay will parents receive if taking adoption leave?

If an employee is eligible for adoption pay, they can receive statutory adoption pay for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, they will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks, they will receive either a flat rate which is currently set at £172.48 a week, or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. This effectively mirrors the statutory maternity pay regime.

It is worth noting that some employers may offer more generous adoption pay schemes, so employees should always check their contracts of employment or their employer’s family-related policies.

Who qualifies for adoption leave?

To qualify for adoption leave and pay, an employee must:

  • be an employee (not a worker or self-employed)
  • have been matched with a child by an approved adoption agency
  • give the correct notice and evidence to their employer

If an employee is in a couple, only one individual of the couple would be eligible to take adoption leave and to claim adoption pay. The other party may be entitled to paternity leave and pay, or shared parental leave and pay, if they meet the necessary eligibility requirements.

Employment rights during adoption leave

An employee’s employment rights are protected while they are on adoption leave. This means that they have the right to:

  • Return to the same job or a suitable alternative job
  • Receive pay rises and other benefits
  • Accrue holiday entitlement
  • Take up to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days during their adoption leave without affecting their adoption pay or leave. These days can be used for training, meetings, or other work-related activities. They are optional and must be agreed between the employee and employer
  • Not to be dismissed, or subjected to any detriment because of their adoption leave.


Supporting adoptive parents in the workplace

Employers have a legal duty to provide adoption leave and pay to eligible employees, but they can also go beyond the specified legal obligations and create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture for adoptive parents. Some of the ways employers might do this are:

  • Having clear and accessible policies on adoption leave and pay, and communicating them effectively to employees
  • Providing flexibility and understanding to employees who are going through the adoption process, such as allowing them time off for meetings, assessments, or training
  • Offering additional support or counselling services to employees who may face emotional or practical challenges during or after the adoption
  • Recognising and celebrating the diversity of families in the workplace, and ensuring that adoptive parents are not discriminated against or stigmatised
  • Encouraging open and honest communication between managers and employees about their needs and expectations during and after the adoption leave
  • Providing training and guidance to managers and colleagues on how to support adoptive parents in the workplace
  • Creating a network or forum for adoptive parents to share their experiences and advice with each other

By following these steps, employers can ensure that they not only comply with their legal duties, but also create a culture of respect, inclusion and wellbeing for all their employees.

For organisations that require further information, advice and support on any of the issues set out above, please contact Danielle Lister

Written By

Published: 20th October 2023
Area: Employment

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Danielle is an employment partner at Shakespeare Martineau, working in the Lincoln office. She has been practising employment law for over 16 years, including having successfully led a team of Employment lawyers in a previous position.

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