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Time off work for the adoption process

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When most people think of parental leave, it’s understandable if their mind instantly goes to a heterosexual couple eagerly awaiting their new arrival as a result of a conventional pregnancy. This is because historically, this type of nuclear family was considered the most basic social unit. However, nowadays the perception of what constitutes a family has changed, as has the ways that these families come to fruition.

The world is now realising that families can be created through fertility treatments such as IVF, via same-sex couples or individuals, and through non-biological children being brought together with adoptive parents. 

With this realisation comes the need for inclusion and understanding in the workplace through such entitlements as fertility leave and adoption leave. In the UK, adoptive parents have the right to leave and pay under law but how does it work? 

This article outlines the entitlements for adoptive parents, eligibility criteria and their rights at work surrounding time off.

How much time do I need off for the adoption process?

Whilst adoption processes may vary ever so slightly between agencies, they generally follow a similar path that is complex and can take a long time. Throughout the process, there are different stages that will require you to go to training sessions, have home visits and attend an Adoption Panel.

How much time you will need off for these facets of the process will depend on the schedule set by your assigned social worker and your working pattern. If you work part-time for instance, you may be able to organise some or all your appointments on the days that you aren’t working. If you work full time, however, you will likely need some time off work to complete the required sessions.

Can I take time off for adoption appointments?

The short answer is yes. An adoptive parent has the right to take paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments arranged by their adoption agency.

If you have been jointly approved for adoption with a partner or spouse, only one of you (the ‘primary adopter’ for this entitlement) can use the right to paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments. The other person is entitled to unpaid time off to attend up to two appointments.

The maximum amount of time that can be taken for each appointment, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid, is 6.5 hours.

Maternity and paternity pay and leave for adoption

In the UK, maternity pay and leave specifically cover those who are pregnant and will be giving birth to a child. However, there are comparative entitlements for adoptive parents which are known as adoption pay and leave.

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) you must have at least 26 weeks’ continual service with your employer by the week you are matched with a child and your average weekly earnings must exceed £123 before tax. 

The first six weeks of SAP are paid at 90% of your normal weekly earnings and the remaining 33 weeks are paid at a flat rate of £156.66 (or 90% of your earnings if you earn less than the flat rate).

Your employer may have their own adoption pay scheme, meaning you may receive more than stated above, however, by law, your employer cannot pay you less than the statutory amount.

Paternity leave consists of one or two weeks of paid leave and you do have to provide proof of adoption to be eligible. The statutory rate of paternity pay is £156.66 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). There are eligibility criteria for paternity pay, including that you must have been continually employed by your employers for 26 weeks.

Am I entitled to adoption leave from work?

Since April 5, 2015, adoption leave and pay have been a day one right for employees, in the same way that maternity leave is. Statutory Adoption Leave is 52 weeks and consists of 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave.

Only one person can take adoption leave but if you have a partner, they may be eligible for paternity leave instead.

Adoption leave can start up to 14 days before the date the child starts living with you (for UK adoptions), when the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of this date (for overseas adoptions), or the day the child’s born or the day after if you’ve used a surrogate to have a child.

Can an employer refuse adoption leave?

It is against the law for an employer to refuse adoption leave or alter the amount of leave that an employee wants to take off. An employer can, however, delay the start of adoption leave if an employee doesn’t have a reasonable excuse for providing an incorrect period of notice. In instances such as this, an employer can only delay adoption leave by writing to the employee within 28 days of their request.

An employer can also refuse Statutory Adoption Pay if an employee does not meet the eligibility criteria. To refuse SAP an employer must give you a SAP1 form within 7 days of their decision and you must receive this form within 28 days of making your request for Statutory Adoption Pay.

For adoption appointments prior to a child (or children) being placed with you, an employer can refuse your request for time off only if it is reasonable to do so, although there isn’t really any legal guidance on what is considered reasonable. Most workplaces will be accommodating; however, you can launch a tribunal claim if you believe that your request has been rejected unreasonably.

Can I still get adoption pay if I leave employment?

If you have recently left employment or are considering leaving your current role to focus on the adoption process, you won’t be eligible for SAP. There are, however, other forms of financial help that you may be entitled to or can access. These include:

  • Adoption allowance
  • A ‘Settling In’ grant
  • Child benefits
  • Disability living allowance for children
  • Carer’s allowance
  • The Adoption Support Fund

If you are going to be entering into the adoption process soon, why not ask Apryl for support? We can get in touch with your employer on your behalf, with complete anonymity and discretion, and help them to make sure they are an adoption-friendly workplace.  

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