Many employers will now have their shared parental leave policy to cover birth situations in place. But how does shared parental leave operate in adoption scenarios?
We set out eight steps for HR professionals to follow when setting out their rules on shared parental leave in adoption situations.
The rules are similar to a birth situation, but there are several important differences. The wording of an employer’s policy on shared parental leave for adoptive parents is further complicated by the distinction between the adoption of children from within the UK and adoptions from overseas.
1. Explain the right of adopters to shared parental leave
As with birth situations, shared parental leave is available to employees having a child placed for adoption with them.
Your shared parental leave policy on adoptions should explain that the primary adopter can choose to curtail adoption leave to take shared parental leave with his or her partner.
In particular, your policy should state that shared parental leave is available to employees having a child placed for adoption with them (or, in the case of an adoption from overseas, having a child they are adopting enter Great Britain) on or after 5 April 2015.
2. Explain the key terms for adopters taking shared parental leave
Adoption and shared parental leave within the UK: model notification forms
There are several terms that have very specific meanings in the law on adoption leave. Your policy should explain who counts as the “adopter” and who counts as the “partner” in instances where couples are jointly adopting a child.
It is also a good idea for you to set out some of the key stages in the adoption process that trigger adopters’ rights to adoption leave and shared parental leave.
For adoptions within in the UK, adopters are first “matched for adoption” with a child and the child is then “placed for adoption”. For adoptions from overseas, adopters first receive “official notification” of the adoption and the important milestone is when the child enters Great Britain.
3. Set out how much shared parental leave adopters have available
The shared parental leave policy should explain that the amount of leave to which an individual is entitled will depend on when the adopter brings his or her adoption leave period to an end and the amount of leave that the other adoptive parent takes in respect of the child.
The policy can also set out how shared parental leave can be taken – for example, that the leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week.
4. Define when adopters are eligible for shared parental leave
For adopters to be eligible to take shared parental leave, both adopters have to meet a series of detailed eligibility requirements.
The shared parental leave policy should state who is eligible to take shared parental leave. For example, the adopter must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the end of the week in which he or she is notified of having been matched for adoption with the child (or by the end of the week in which he/she receives official notification in relation to an adoption from overseas).
The adopter’s partner must have been employed or been a self-employed earner in at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately preceding the week in which the adopter is notified of having been matched for adoption with the child (or the week in which the child enters Great Britain in relation to an adoption from overseas).
5. Detail the notice requirements adopters to take shared parental leave
Adoption and shared parental leave for overseas adoptions: model notification forms
The policy should provide details of the notices that adopters must normally give to be able to take shared parental leave.
The three types of notice are similar to the notices that birth parents must provide. Firstly, a “adoption leave curtailment notice” from the adopter setting out when he or she proposes to end adoption leave.
Secondly, a “notice of entitlement and intention” from the employee giving an initial, non-binding indication of each period of shared parental leave that the employee is requesting.
And finally a “period of leave notice” from the employee, setting out the start and finish dates of each period of shared parental leave that the employee is requesting.
6. State what happens if a continuous period of shared parental leave is requested
The shared parental leave policy should provide that, if the employee submits a period of leave notice requesting one continuous period of leave, they will be entitled to take that period of leave.
A maximum of three period of leave notices (or variations of notice) per pregnancy, whether for continuous or discontinuous periods of leave, can be submitted by each parent.
7. State what happens if discontinuous periods of shared parental leave are requested
Adoption and shared parental leave: model forms for when employees’ plans change
If the employee submits a period of leave notice requesting discontinuous leave, the employer can consent to the leave.
However, as the shared parental leave policy should explain, the employer can propose an alternative pattern of leave or even refuse the pattern of leave requested (but the employee must then be given the opportunity to take the leave as one continuous period of leave).
8. Spell out how much shared parental pay is available to adopters
Employers should offer in their shared parental leave policy either the statutory minimum shared parental pay or contractual shared parental pay.
For employees to be eligible for statutory shared parental pay, both adoptive parents must meet certain eligibility requirements.