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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Adoption - Guidelines for Employees

This is a guide to adoption leave and pay

In England and Wales children may be adopted by couples who are married, civil partners or unmarried as well as by individuals. Where a couple are adopting jointly they can choose which of them will take adoption leave and pay, and the other (regardless of gender) may take paternity leave and pay. If an individual is adopting they may take adoption leave and pay and if your partner or spouse is also employed by the University they may be eligible for paternity leave and pay (see Paternity leave guidelines for adoptive parents Adopters may also wish to use the shared parental leave policy (please see shared parental leave policy).

Am I eligible for adoption leave?

To qualify for adoption leave you must:

  • Have been matched with a child to be placed with them by a UK adoption agency;
  • Have notified the agency that they agree that the child should be placed with them and agree the date of placement
  • Have been continuously employed by the University for at least 26 weeks ending with the week in which they are notified of having been matched with the child.
  • Notify the University of when you want to take their adoption leave no more than seven days after you are notified that you have been matched with a child.

In addition to meeting the above criteria, if you have also worked for the University continuously for 52 weeks or more by the expected date of placement, you will be entitled to the enhanced University Adoption Scheme.

Adoption leave and pay is only available where a child is newly matched for adoption, it would not, for example, be available when a step-parent is adopting a partner's children.

Where a couple adopts jointly, adoption leave and pay is available to only one member of a couple. The other parent has the right to take paternity leave regardless of gender. Adopters may also wish to use the shared parental leave policy (please see shared parental leave policy).

Please note that provisions for paid time off to attend adoption appointments will mirror the maternity policy.

Who do I need to inform about my adoption?

It is advisable that you contact your HR representative at an early stage to ensure that you are clear about your entitlements, dates for notification, etc. Contact with the HR Office is always treated confidentially. In addition, it is advisable that you notify your Head of Department or Section when you are approved for adoption so that early consideration can be given to covering your post during your absence.

Formal notification

You will need to formally notify the University in writing of your intent to take adoption leave, specifying when you expect the child to be placed and when you expect to start adoption leave (based upon the expected date of placement). This should be given within 7 days of being notified that you have been matched with a child. (No less than 28 days' notice must be given before paternity pay is due to start - See 'Paternity leave for adoptive parents')

You must notify the University:

  • That you intend to take adoption leave and when you intend to start it;
  • The date on which the child is expected to be placed for adoption with you.

You will also need to include the following details in order to receive statutory adoption pay

  • The name and address of the adoption agency ;
  • Submitting documentary evidence from the appropriate 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, in the case of SAP, if it has already happened, the actual date of placement);
  • That you wish to receive Statutory Adoption Pay rather than Statutory Paternity Pay (one person cannot receive both).
  • The relevant UK authority’s ‘official notification’ confirming the parent is allowed to adopt (overseas adoptions only)
  • The date the child arrived in the UK, e.g. plane ticket (overseas adoptions only)

A matching certificate can be used for the adoption agency's documentary evidence and a sample letter is also available on-line.

The Adoption Certificate must be passed to your Head of Department or Section within 1 week of issue, or, if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practical.

The declaration should include the date that you wish to start your adoption leave, based on the expected date of placement.

When Adoption Leave and Pay can start

An adopter can choose to begin their leave and pay:

  • When an employee has been matched with a child to be placed with them by a UK adoption agency
  • On the date on which the child is placed with them for adoption; or
  • On a pre-determined date no earlier than 14 days before the expected date of placement, and no later than the expected date of placement.
  • When the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of this date (overseas adoptions)
  • The day the child’s born or the day after (parents in surrogacy arrangements)

What am I entitled to under the University Adoption Scheme?

  1. Those choosing adoption leave (rather than paternity leave) are entitled to up to 52 weeks adoptive leave including ordinary and additional leave;
  2. Statutory adoption pay will be paid for 39 weeks (roughly nine months);
  3. 13 weeks unpaid leave comprises the remainder of the 52 week entitlement.

The University provides an occupational adoption scheme which differs from Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and Leave, providing enhanced benefits, subject to compliance with notification requirements.

If you have been continuously employed by the University for a minimum of 12 months before the expected week of placement you will receive:

  • 8 weeks' leave on full pay (inclusive of SAP);
  • followed by 16 weeks' leave on half pay (plus, in addition to this, the lower rate of SAP);
  • followed by 15 weeks' leave at the lower rate of SAP;
  • plus up to 13 further weeks of unpaid leave.


  • 16 weeks on full pay (inclusive of SAP);
  • followed by the lower rate of SAP for 23 weeks;
  • plus up to 13 weeks' unpaid leave.

It is your choice whether you choose the first or second options in regard to occupational adoption pay. Your SAP commences on day 1 of your adoption leave regardless of which option you choose and runs concurrently with occupational adoption pay. You are eligible for up to 52 weeks leave in total regardless of the option chosen. It is your choice to decide when it is suitable for you to return to work however an indication of this date is required in the letter you send to the University in your formal notification.

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) is paid for 39 weeks. Whilst you are receiving full occupational adoption pay, SAP will be included with this value. If you move onto half pay, SAP will be paid in addition to this value. Any remaining SAP will continue to be paid after your full or half pay has ceased.

If you receive half pay and SAP that, when combined, exceeds your gross contractual pay we would restrict your payment to the level of your gross contractual pay.

If you are earning more than the lower earnings limit, Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) for employees is:

  • 90% of gross average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks
  • The statutory adoption rate or 90% of gross average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted.

The current rate of SAP can be found at the government website

Am I eligible to receive SAP?

You must have 26 weeks or more service by the time that you are matched with a child, and your average earnings must be at least equal to the lower earnings limit (as of 2015/6 this is earnings of at least £112 a week in an eight week period ) for National Insurance purposes to qualify for SAP. If you are unsure please contact the Salaries Office.

  • If you have been employed by the University for less than 12 months before the date of placement, but have at least 26 weeks' service by the time that you are matched with a child, and if you are earning more than the lower earnings limit:

You will receive SAP only from the University and may take up to 52 weeks adoption leave.

  • If you have less than 26 weeks' service by the time that you are matched with a child or if you are earning less than the lower earnings limit:

You will not be entitled to SAP from the University. However, you will be entitled to 52 weeks adoption leave (this applies regardless of length of service) and you should seek advice from your local Social Security or Jobcentre Plus office, as you may be eligible for other allowances. You should also contact your adoption agency for information on whether you are eligible for other allowances.

Employees working term time only

Please contact the Salaries Office for further clarification on your entitlement to adoption leave as this will vary according to the contract you are employed on. Please note that University adoption enhancements will only be paid during the period for which you are contracted to work.

Dual Employment

If you have more than one job .e.g. a position at the University and a position elsewhere, you may be eligible to receive SAP from each employer.

Please check with each employer to confirm your eligibility.

If you have more than one role at the University you will receive SAP plus benefits (subject to eligibility) based on your actual earnings.

What if I am adopting a child from overseas?

The procedures for claiming adoption leave and pay when adopting a child from overseas differ slightly to those when adopting a child within the UK.

If you are considering adopting a child from overseas, please contact your HR representative.

What if I am on probation at the time that I go on adoption leave?

Your probationary period is extended in line with your actual period of leave.

What if I want to change the date that I start my adoption leave?

You should give the University 28 days notice in writing.

If you plan to start adoption leave at any time before the actual date of placement, you must be sure that the placement will be going ahead on the date agreed before you start your leave. If the placement is delayed for whatever reason and you have already begun your adoption leave you cannot stop leave and start it again at a later date.

If the date of the placement changes before you begin adoption leave, you should discuss this with your Head of Department or Section as soon as possible. It may also be necessary to contact your HR representative.

What if I want to change the date that I return from my adoption leave?

If you wish to return to work before the end of your adoption leave period you must give 8 weeks notice of the date you intend to return to work.

What happens if the adoption fails?

If the adoption fails, for example, if adoption leave begins but the placement is not made, or if the child returns to the adoption agency during adoption leave, adoption leave can continue for 8 weeks after the placement ends, or until the end of the leave period if that is sooner.

What do I do about returning?

You must confirm your intention to return to work providing 8 weeks notice of the return even if your return to work date has not changed since you originally notified the University of your intention to take adoption leave.

What if I wish to return to work part time following my adoption leave?

You are entitled to resume your normal job on the same terms and conditions as if you had not been absent. However the University will give serious consideration to requests to vary working patterns, under the Right to Request Flexible Working.

You should submit your request in writing as early as practicable, and it is recommended that this should be no later than 8 weeks before the notified date of return.

If this is something you are seriously considering, it would be helpful if you could discuss it with your Head of Department before you go on adoption leave or at the earliest available opportunity thereafter.

What if I am considering not returning to work after the adoption?

You should discuss this with your HR representative at the earliest opportunity.

Can my employer contact me during Adoption leave?

An employer can contact you on adoption leave to discuss a range of issues - eg to discuss plans for returning to work, or to keep you informed of important developments at work. The frequency and nature of the contact will depend on the nature of the work and any agreement reached between both parties before adoption leave commenced. Contact can be by telephone, email, letter, a visit to the workplace, or in other ways. It is useful to discuss and agree such arrangements before adoption leave commences for staying in touch with each other.

What are ‘Keeping in Touch' (KIT) days?

You can agree to work for up to a maximum of 10 days during your adoption leave under your normal contract of employment. Any amount of work done on a KIT day counts as one KIT day from the 10 days allowed.

KIT days are optional and can take place as long as both you and your manager have agreed for this to happen and agreement has been reached on what work will be undertaken during this time. Each KIT day and the work to be undertaken must be approved in advance by your manager. The type of work may be normal day to day activity to assist the return to work process, enabling attendance at a conference, undertaking a training activity or attending a team meeting for example. KIT days do not normally involve working from home such as checking emails.

KIT days are paid at your normal daily rate (based on 1/260th of annual salary) and can be paid in either full or half days.

If you are still receiving SAP payments at the time of the keeping in touch days you will continue to receive this as normal. KIT days are non pensionable. Payment for KIT days will not exceed full pay, you cannot be paid more than one day's pay - this applies if you work a KIT day when you are still in receipt of full pay via your adoption pay. If your adoption pay has reduced to half plus SAP your pay will be increased up your normal rate when a KIT day is used. If you are in the unpaid period of adoption leave or do not qualify for adoption pay your normal rate will be processed in this event. This arrangement only applies to KIT days.

Adoption leave start and end dates are not affected by KIT days as these form part of the whole adoption leave package and can only be taken during adoption leave.

KIT days are non pensionable.

KIT days can be taken at any stage during the adoption leave period (paid or unpaid), by agreement with your manager with the exception of the first two weeks of adoption leave.

Do I accrue holiday during my adoption leave?

Annual leave entitlement, plus customary and public holidays are accrued during adoption leave. However annual leave cannot be carried over from one holiday year to the next and if your adoption leave will fall over two holiday years, it is advisable that you take any outstanding entitlement before commencing your adoption leave.

Annual leave cannot be taken between paid and unpaid adoption pay periods. Annual leave can only be used before adoption leave commences or following the end of the adoption leave period, immediately before a return to work.

What about collecting my personal possessions during my absence?

If you are absent from your base of work for any length of time, it is your responsibility to have your personal possessions collected in a timely manner or to arrange with your line manager for them to be stored, if this is possible.

What about annual increments and pay increases due during my adoption leave?

While you are on adoption leave, your service with the University is continuous and you are entitled to any incremental rises due to you and any cost of living increases awarded.

What about applications for research leave and promotions while I am on adoption leave?

Your absence on adoption leave does not affect any future application for research leave, promotion, etc.

What if I am on a fixed term contract that is due to end?

Please contact your HR representative to discuss further.

What about my pension and Benefits+ arrangements while I am on adoption leave?

If you are a member of one of the University's pension schemes, your membership continues throughout your adoption leave. Pension contributions continue to be made in the same manner and employer contributions will be made to your pension throughout the paid part of your adoption leave. This includes any periods of SAP. If you are a member of Benefits+ arrangements, you will remain so during your period of adoption leave, unless there is the possibility that you may be disadvantaged. If that is the case, you will be removed from Benefits+ and reinstated upon your return to work if appropriate.

If you need further clarification on any pension issues, please contact Janet Robertson or Richard Walters

What about salary sacrifice arrangements

You should actively manage your account and ensure childcare vouchers are used within a year of purchase otherwise it may not be possible to refund the vouchers once issued.

Definitions used within this guidance


For the purposes of this guidance, an adopter is a person who has been matched with a child for adoption or, if the couple have been matched jointly, the member of the couple who has chosen to take adoption leave and / or SAP.

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 agency's decision that they have been matched with a child for adoption.


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.


In this guidance the term ‘paternity' is used in reference to those entitlements applying either to the individual who is the member of a jointly adopting couple who has chosen not to take statutory adoption leave or pay, regardless of the sex of either, or an individual adopter's partner, regardless of the sex of either.