Adoption leave policy

Introduction

The aim of this policy is to inform staff of their rights both before and after the adoption of their child. The policy applies to all staff employed by Registers of Scotland, (referred to as the 'RoS), whether they work full or part time, no matter how many hours they work, providing they satisfy any qualifying conditions.

RoS is committed to developing work practices and human resource policies that support work-life balance. Reflecting this commitment, the provisions of RoS's adoption leave policy exceed those laid down in law.

As adoption provisions are not always simple, if you are planning to adopt you should clarify the relevant procedures with the human resources team as early as you can. The HR team will do all they can to make the whole process as simple and as straightforward for you as possible.

Details of statutory adoption entitlements can be found on the DTI website.

Definitions:

The following definitions are used in this policy:

ADLAP

Adoption leave/pay notification form

Ordinary adoption leave (OAL)

Refers to the leave period which can start any time from up to 14 days before your child is placed for adoption, and can last for up to 26 weeks. 

Additional adoption leave (AAL)

Refers to the leave period which begins at the end of OAL and can last for up to a further 26 weeks.

Statutory adoption pay (SAP)

During their adoption leave, staff who meet the qualifying criteria will be eligible for SAP. The statutory rate is subject to review every April.

Occupational adoption pay (OAP)

The more generous occupational arrangement payable by RoS when certain service criteria are met.

Matched/matching

A person is matched with a child for adoption when an adoption agency decides that the person would be a suitable adoptive parent for the child, either individually or with another person.

Notification of matching

A person is notified of having been matched with a child on the date on which they receive notification of the adoption agency's decision that they have been matched with a child for adoption.

Matching certificate

This is the certificate presented to adoptive parents by an adoption agency when a child has been matched with them.

Adopter

For the purposes of this policy, an adopter is a person who has been matched with a child for adoption or, if a couple has been matched jointly, the member of the couple who has chosen to apply for adoption leave (and SAP where applicable).

Adoption agency

An adoption agency has the meaning given to it in section 1(4) of the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978.

Placement

A child is placed for adoption when the child goes to live with the adopter or adopters with a view to being adopted by them in the future.

Lower earnings limit (LEL)

The amount an employee has to earn to qualify for benefits. An employee has to earn more than this amount before starting to pay National Insurance.

Note: This policy only covers leave, pay entitlements and responsibilities which apply when an adopter is matched with a child and the child is placed for adoption within Great Britain. Similar provisions apply where a child is adopted from overseas although the detailed operation of the scheme differs slightly for practical reasons. For further information on this particular issue, you should contact the human resources team.

2. Adoption leave – entitlement and eligibility

Adoption leave is available to eligible members of staff who are adopting a child on their own, or for one member of a couple who are adopting together. It applies to any new placement of children up to the age of 18.

Adoption leave, however, will not granted in circumstances where the child is already living as a family member e.g. where the spouse/partner of a natural parent adopts his/her partner's children.

Entitlement

Where you meet the qualifying criteria, you will be entitled to 26 weeks' ordinary adoption leave (OAL), which can be followed up immediately by a further 26 weeks' additional adoption leave (AAL). There can be no gap between OAL and AAL.

How much you leave you take as OAL or AAL is your choice, providing you follow the necessary notification procedure outlined in section 3.

Where both adoptive parents are employees of RoS, the couple must choose which partner will apply for adoption leave (and pay, where applicable). In such cases, the partner of an individual who adopts, or the other member of a couple who are adopting jointly, may be eligible for two weeks' statutory paternity leave and pay - see RoS's paternity policy.

Note: nly one period of adoption leave will be available irrespective of whether more than one child is placed for adoption as part of the same arrangement.

Eligibility

To qualify for adoption leave you must be employed by RoS and have:

  • at least 26 weeks continuous service with the Civil Service ending with the week in which you are notified of having been 'matched' with the child (the week in question starts on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday)
  • been matched with a child to be placed with you by an approved adoption agency and you in turn have notified the adoption agency that you agree that the child should be placed with you and agreed the date of placement
  • evidence to be able to satisfy RoS that you are to be the child's adopter (eg a matching certificate from the approved adoption agency)
  • notified RoS of when you want to take your adoption leave in line with Section 3 of this policy

Special note for foster carers

If you are a foster carer who has become an adopter and you satisfy the relevant conditions, your entitlement to leave and pay will relate only to the placement for adoption. The time the child was fostered by you is not relevant to statutory leave or pay.

In such cases, the length of service will be assessed according to the date on which you, as the adopter, were notified of being matched with the child for adoption. 

If you are a foster carer and are fostering a child that has not been matched and placed with you for adoption by an adoption agency, but apply to the court for an adoption order to be made, you will not be eligible for statutory leave or pay.

3. Notification and certification requirements

If you wish to take adoption leave you must inform your line manager and the HR team of this fact no later than 7 days of being notified by your adoption agency that you have been matched with a child for adoption, (unless this is not reasonably practicable).

Information to be provided

You must give the HR team confirmation of:

  • the date on which the child is expected to be placed for adoption with you
  • your intention to take adoption leave and when you plan to start it

Evidence will also be needed by the HR team to demonstrate your eligibility. The evidence that RoS is entitled to ask to see is:

  • the name and address of the adoption agency
  • the date you were notified of having been matched with the child
  • the date on which the child is expected to be placed for adoption, (or the date of the placement if this has already occurred)

This information should be provided in the matching certificate which you should present to HR, so they can take a copy for the record. 

You can use RoS's ADLAP form to provide all the necessary information. It can be issued to you by the HR team upon your request.

Acknowledgement of your application

Within 28 days of receiving your formal notification, the HR team will write to you outlining your individual entitlement to adoption leave, (and pay, where applicable). Your projected OAL/AAL start and end dates will also be confirmed.

You can change your mind about the date you start your adoption leave, but if you do, you must give the HR team and your line manager written notice of the proposed change, either 28 days before the originally agreed date or 28 days before the new date you have chosen, whichever is earlier.  If this is not possible, then you must notify the HR team and your line manager as soon as it is. 

If the date of placement changes before you begin adoption leave, you should discuss the situation with the HR team as soon as possible, and give the appropriate 28 days notice to change the start date, if possible.

Applying for statutory adoption pay/occupational adoption pay

The ADLAP form can also be used to make your official request for SAP/OAP (see Section 6), and to indicate the date on which you would like this to begin, (if eligible). Any request for these payments must be given at least 28 days' before the date on which you want them to start, or, if this is not reasonably practicable, as soon as it is.
If you are applying for SAP, you will also be required to sign a declaration that you have chosen to receive this statutory benefit rather than statutory paternity pay (SPP), when you make your claim. The declaration can be found on the ADLAP form.

If you do not complete the ADLAP form, you must instead write to RoS, (within the noted timeframes), and provide the same information as requested on this form.

It is essential that you provide the appropriate notification, as failure to do so and provide the necessary evidence may affect your rights.

4. Adoption leave – planning ahead

There are a number of things you need to know about in the lead up to your adoption leave period.  The key issues are covered below, but the HR team will be happy to discuss these, and any other issues more fully at your request.

Time off for assessment visits

The process of selection for becoming adoptive parents involves a number of assessment visits at home which both prospective parents must attend. RoS will grant up to a maximum of 3 working days paid leave to a prospective adoptive parent to attend such meetings subject to reasonable notice being given and on production of evidence of the meetings. Where a couple are adopting and both are employed by RoS, both will be granted leave for this purpose.

Sick absence

If you are absent due to sickness immediately prior to your adoption leave you can take sick absence in the normal way. Your sick absence can extend until the date you have already notified that you intend your adoption leave to begin. You can also return to work from sick absence prior to your intended adoption leave start date.
If you are sick during your AAL period, you will not be entitled to receive sick pay. 

However, in such circumstances, if you wish the normal sick absence rules to apply and, where appropriate, receive sick pay, you should notify the HR team that you wish your AAL period to end. In these circumstances the normal 8 weeks return to work notice requirement will be waived. You should note that by opting to receive sick pay in these circumstances, your AAL period will cease and once the period of sick absence has ended you must return to work. You should provide HR with a confirmation from your doctor of your fitness to return to work.
If you are unable to return to work following your adoption leave period due to sickness, the normal sick absence rules will apply. Failure to follow the normal sick absence procedures will be treated as an unauthorised absence.

Annual leave

Subject to normal approval, you can take annual leave immediately before your OAL period begins or at the end of your OAL period, (or AAL period, if you have chosen to take up this extended leave option).

The normal rules applying to advances and carry over of leave will apply, but you should remember to check your actual entitlement with the HR team before you begin your adoption leave, as it may be subject to change if you are taking AAL. This is because unpaid service can have an impact on such an entitlement.

If there is any formally agreed change to your working hours on your return to work, your annual leave entitlement will be adjusted accordingly.

Performance review

If you work for part of a reporting year, your performance will be assessed for that part year. If, however, the length of your adoption leave means that you have not worked for at least 3 months in the reporting year you will be given a notional marking that indicates you have met the required standards for the year.

Adoption leave and pension

Any period of unpaid adoption leave does not reckon for pension purposes. You could boost your pension in or to maintain the benefits that may become available to your widow/er or children. For more information on this speak to HR or refer to the Civil Service Pension website www.civilservicepensionscheme.org.uk/.

Parental leave

Your entitlement to parental leave is not affected by your entitlement to adoption leave. Full details of RoS' Parental Leave Policy can be found in the Staff Handbook.

Dismissal or resignation before the intended start date of your adoption leave

If you resign or are dismissed before the date you have notified HR as being the start of your OAL, or before you have formally notified HR of your adoption, you will lose the right to adoption leave, (but you may still be eligible for SAP – see section 6).

5. Duration and commencement of adoption leave

Adoption leave can only be taken in whole weeks, but it can start on any day of the week from the date of the child's placement, or a pre-determined date no earlier than 14 days before the expected date of placement, and no later than the expected date of placement.

Disrupted placement during adoption leave

This occurs where, after your OAL or AAL period has started:the adoption agency notifies you that the child will not be placed with you, or the child dies, or the child's placement ends In these circumstances your OAL or AAL period will end 8 weeks after the end of the relevant week.The relevant week in this case is the week during which:you were notified that the placement will not take place the child dies, or the child's placement ends.

However, where a disrupted placement occurs within eight weeks of the end of your OAL period then you will still be entitled to AAL, but the AAL period will end eight weeks after the end of the relevant week. Where a disrupted placement occurs within 8 weeks of the end of you AAL period your adoption leave will end on the expiry of the AAL period.

6. Adoption pay – entitlement and eligibility

It is important to recognise that Adoption Leave and Pay are separate entitlements. Access to one does not automatically give you full access to the other.

Entitlement

If you meet the qualifying conditions, you will be entitled to 39 weeks' SAP.

You will qualify for SAP if you have:

  • been employed by the Civil Service continuously for at least 26 weeks ending with the week in which you are notified of having been matched with the child and are still employed by RoS during that week, (the week in question starts on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday)
  • been matched with a child to be placed with you by an approved adoption agency and notified the adoption agency that you agree that the child should be placed with you and have agreed the date of placement
  • given the proper notification of your intention to take adoption leave, (and of when you want to receive SAP if eligible), in line with section 3 of this policy*
  • normal earnings for the eight weeks prior to the end of the matching week of not less than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions in force at the time

*As normal weekly earnings are based on the gross average NI-able weekly earnings including overtime (i.e. all income subject to tax and National Insurance), received during the eight weeks prior to the qualifying week, it is important to be aware that if for any reason your earnings during that period are reduced, eg because you have taken unpaid leave, or have had a period of sickness where sick pay has been exhausted, this will affect your average earnings.

When will your SAP start?

You can choose to start your SAP on any day of the week from:the date of the child's placement, or a pre-determined date no earlier than 14 days before the expected date of placement, and no later than the expected date of placement.

What will you be paid?

The weekly rate of SAP paid to an employee is the lesser of the 'standard rate' in force at the time or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings. The standard rate is subject to review every April.

If you become eligible for a pay rise between the start of the original calculation period and the end of your adoption leave (whether OAL or AAL), the higher or standard rate of SAP will be recalculated to take account of your pay rise, regardless of whether SAP has already been paid to you. This means that your SAP will be recalculated and increased retrospectively, or that you may qualify for SAP if you did not before. You would be paid a lump sum to make up any difference between SAP already paid to you and the amount payable as a result of the pay rise.

If, by agreement with your business manager, you choose to undertake up to 10 days' work under the 'keeping in touch' scheme outlined in section 8, you can do this without losing any SAP.

How does it actually get paid?

SAP is paid through the payroll in the usual way, on a monthly basis and will be subject to normal tax and NI deductions.  This also applies to RoS's Occupational Adoption Pay (OAP).

Occupational adoption pay

RoS has a more generous adoption payment scheme and, provided you satisfy the same qualifying criteria as for SAP, you will be entitled to receive 26 weeks OAP pay at your normal rate during your OAL period.

Where you do qualify for this benefit, you will be required to confirm in writing that you agree to repay any OAP received (less any SAP), should you decide not to return to work and complete the equivalent of one months paid service following your adoption leave period, (OAL or AAL), consecutive unpaid special leave or consecutive career break.

You will be asked to do this by signing a "Statement of Intention and Undertaking to Repay Salary", found in the ADLAP form.

Wwhere you meet the criteria for OAP, but confirm, when you notify RoS of your intention to take adoption leave, that you do not intend to return to work at the end of the adoption leave period, OAP will be restricted to 6 weeks normal pay followed by 33 weeks SAP paid at the standard rate or a rate equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever rate is lower.

When you notify RoS of your intention to take adoption leave, but are still unsure at that point whether you will return to work at the end of your adoption leave period, you can choose to receive 6 weeks full pay and defer payment of any remaining entitlement until a later date.

If you are not eligible for SAP/OAP

If you do not meet the qualifying conditions for SAP, (or the enhanced payments under RoS's scheme), you may still qualify for other social security benefits.  The HR team will provide you with a SAP1 form, to help you apply for such allowances.

Further information on these benefits can be obtained from your local JobCentre Plus office.

In the event you leave RoS

If you are eligible for SAP, but leave your job for any reason – including being dismissed – you will still be entitled to SAP. However, if you start work for a different employer you cannot receive SAP for any week in which you do work for the new employer.


If your contract ends before the SAP payments have begun, the payments to which you would have been entitled should start 14 days before the date of placement. If the contract ends during those 14 days, SAP begins the day following the last day of work.

7. What happens to your terms and conditions during and after adoption leave

During OAL your contract of employment continues in force and you are entitled to receive all your contractual benefits, (except for salary), unless either RoS or you expressly end your contract or it expires.

Your annual leave entitlement will continue to accrue and your pension contributions will continue to be made.
Following a period of OAL you have the right to return to the same post you occupied prior to your absence on the same terms and conditions of employment as if you had not been absent, unless a redundancy situation has arisen, in which case you are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy.

You will also be entitled to benefit from any general improvements to the rate of pay, or other terms and conditions, which may have been introduced for your grade while you were away, as if you hadn't been.

During AAL your contract of employment remains in force, but only some terms of your contract will continue to apply, unless, as is the case with OAL, either RoS or you expressly ends your contract or it expires.  Normal contractual benefits will be suspended.

The following are examples of key terms that will continue to apply during AAL. They should not be considered as an exhaustive list of such terms:

  • You are entitled to benefit from RoS's implied obligation of trust and confidence.
  • You are entitled to receive your contractual notice period if your employment is terminated.
  • You are entitled to receive a redundancy payment in the event of redundancy.
  • The terms and conditions relating to disciplinary and grievance procedures will continue to apply to you.
  • You must give RoS the notice provided for in your contract if you want to end your employment.
  • You are bound by the terms relating to disclosure of confidential information, the acceptance of gifts or other benefits and the restrictions on taking part in any other business.

Unlike OAL you do not, however, continue accruing contractual annual leave during AAL.If you return to work after your AAL, you are entitled to return to either your same position or a position of a similar status working on the same hours and on the same terms and conditions as before you started your adoption leave unless:

There is some reason which makes it impractical for RoS to take you back in your old position, in which case you will be offered alternative work on terms and conditions which are not less favourable than those contained in your original contract of employment.

A redundancy situation has arisen during your leave, in which case, if there is a suitable alternative vacancy, you will be offered alternative employment in that new job. The terms of any alternative employment offered will not be less favourable than those contained in your original contract of employment.

Should there be no suitable alternative position, you will be treated in accordance with your contractual and statutory rights.

8. Keeping in touch during adoption leave

RoS may make reasonable contact with you (and vice-versa), while you are on adoption leave to discuss any relevant issues.

In addition to such contact, you may, by agreement with your business manager do up to ten days' work – these days to be known as 'keeping in touch' days. These days are different from the regular contact described above, as they will be paid at your normal rate and can be worked at any stage of your adoption leave.

The type of work that you might undertake on such 'keeping in touch' days' is again a matter for agreement between you and your business manager. They may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under your contract and for which you would be paid, for example attending a conference, undertaking a training activity or attending a team meeting.

9. Returning to work after adoption leave

Notification

There is no statutory obligation on you to notify the HR team if you intend to return to work immediately following the expiry of your OAL or AAL periods.

However, it would be very helpful if you could advise the HR team of your intention to come back on the expected date, as soon as is convenient during your adoption leave. This helps make sure your return to work is as straight forward as possible. 

Where you want to return to work before the end of your 26 weeks OAL, (or the end of your AAL period), you must notify the HR team of your proposed date of return at least eight weeks before the date you intend to come back. If you do not, RoS may delay your return to work for an eight week period, or until the previously agreed return to work date, whichever is sooner.

If, during adoption leave, you decide that you do not wish to return to work, you should give written notice of your resignation to RoS as soon as possible and in accordance with the terms of your contract of employment.

Varying your working pattern

You can request to vary your working pattern on return from adoption leave. Every application will be given serious consideration and judged on its merits. The options available to you are outlined in section 3 of the staff handbook, 'Alternatives to full time employment'.

Where you want to make such a request, you must give the HR team at least 8 weeks' notice of the fact.

Within 28 days of receiving your request, HR will arrange to discuss your application with you.
 
Within 14 days after the date of your discussion, HR will write to you either to agree a new work pattern and start date, or to advise that your application has not been successful.
If your application is refused, you will receive an indication of why this is the case and you will also be given details of how to appeal if you are not satisfied with this outcome.

Where your application is successful, the HR team will issue you with revised terms and conditions of employment in due course.

Family friendly policies

Full details of other options available to you to help you maintain a healthy work life balance when you return are outlined in RoS's flexible working hours policy. This includes parental leave/leave for family care, part rear working etc.

Note: It is important to discuss all your options with the HR team before you go on adoption leave and to provide adequate notice where you are requesting any changes to your terms and conditions.

10. Where to go if you want more information

The HR team are always ready to discuss the issues surrounding the adoption of a child and will be happy to help you with your inquiries.

You should also remember that RoS's employee assistance provider, HELP, is also available for your use at all times and can provide you with extensive advice and support throughout your adoption leave and beyond.

You can contact HELP online at www.sg.helpeap.com or by calling 0800 587 5670.