Adoption leave is made up of 26 weeks' ordinary adoption leave (OAL) followed by 26 weeks' additional adoption leave (AAL). An employee's employment contract continues throughout both OAL and AAL unless either you or the employee expressly ends it or it expires.
During both OAL and AAL, ie the entire statutory adoption leave (SAL) period, an employee has a statutory right to continue to benefit from all the terms and conditions of employment which would have applied to them had they been at work. The only exceptions are terms relating to wages or salary - though you are still obliged to pay them statutory adoption pay if they are eligible. See adoption pay.
Continuous contractual terms and conditions
Examples of contractual terms and conditions that continue during SAL include:
- gym membership
- participation in share schemes
- reimbursement of professional subscriptions
- the use of a company car or mobile phone (unless provided for business use only)
Whether or not you should pay a bonus to an employee on SAL depends on the type of bonus and the terms of the particular bonus scheme.
Continuous employment, length of service and adoption leave
SAL doesn't break continuity of employment.
Similarly, the entire SAL period counts towards an employee's period of continuous employment for the purposes of entitlement to other statutory employment rights, eg the right to a redundancy payment.
Both OAL and AAL count for assessing seniority and personal length-of-service payments, such as pay increments, under the contracts of employment of employees who have had a child placed with them for adoption on or after 5 October 2008, or who have a child adopted from overseas that entered (or will enter) Northern Ireland on or after 5 October 2008.
However, for employees who had a child placed with them before 5 October 2008, you only had to count the period of OAL for assessing length of service payments.
Therefore, when assessing length of service for a pay raise for example, it's possible that an employee who has adopted twice or more while in your employment could have a later period of AAL count towards their length of service but not an earlier one.