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Explanatory Memorandum to Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002

Article 3: Adoption leave

Article 3 makes provision for a new statutory right to ordinary adoption leave and additional adoption leave for an adoptive parent around the time of placement of a child for adoption.  Regulations will determine the entitlement to and details of the leave.  It is intended that adoption leave will be available whether the child is being adopted within the UK or from abroad.  For practical reasons, there will be slight differences to some elements of the provisions for domestic adoptions and adoptions from abroad.  It is intended that ordinary adoption leave will be for a period of up to 26 weeks and additional adoption leave will be for a further period of up to 26 weeks, giving a total of up to one year’s leave.

The legislation is framed in a similar way to provisions in the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996 (ERO) in relation to maternity leave, and the Articles will be inserted into the ERO.

Regulations will be made making adoption leave available:

  • to an adoptive parent who is matched with a child by an approved adoption agency;

  • to employees who give their employer a matching certificate from an approved adoption agency to support their entitlement to leave;

  • to both married couples and individuals who adopt; and

  • for placements of children up to the age of 18.

In cases where a married couple adopts a child, it is planned that only one spouse will be entitled to take the leave.  The other spouse will be entitled to two weeks’ paternity leave if the qualifying requirements in respect of such leave are met.

Regulations will provide that adoption leave will apply only where the child is newly placed with an adoptive parent - it will not apply to step-family adoptions or adoptions by a child’s existing foster carers.

Regulations will also provide that adoption leave will only be available to an employee who has completed a period of qualifying service.  It is intended that the requirement will be continuous service with the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the week in which an approved match with the child is made (a match occurs when an approved adoption agency matches an adopter with a child).

An employee will have the right to return to a job following a period of adoption leave.  It is intended that regulations will allow for:

  • the right to return to the same job following an absence on ordinary adoption leave in most cases; and

  • protection for employees from detriment and unfair dismissal in connection with adoption leave.

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