Adoption leave for UK adoptions and surrogacy

If you adopt a child or become a parent through a surrogacy arrangement (known as a Parental Order Parent), you might be entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Adoption Leave. You must give your employer written notice about when you want to take adoption leave.

Company adoption leave and pay schemes

Your employer may have their own adoption leave scheme which could be more generous than the statutory scheme. Check your employment contract or staff handbook for details or ask your employer. Your employer can't offer you less than your statutory rights.

Qualifying for Statutory Adoption Leave

If you qualify, you have the right to 52 weeks of Statutory Adoption Leave. This is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary adoption leave followed by 26 weeks of additional adoption leave.  If you are adopting as a couple, or a couple who are Parental Order Parents, only one of you can take adoption leave, however a partner may qualify for statutory paternity leave and pay.

The person who qualifies for Statutory Adoption Leave may also qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay.

You don't qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay if you:

  • arrange a private adoption
  • become a special guardian
  • adopt a stepchild

If you are adopting a child from overseas, there are different rules.

Eligibility for Adopters

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave as an adopter, you must be:

  • an employee - find out about your rights and responsibilities at work by following the link Employment status
  • newly 'matched' (explained below) with a child by an adoption agency

 'Matched' means that the adoption agency gives you the details of the child they think is suitable for you to adopt. If you are both an approved adopter and an approved foster parent and a child is to be placed with you at first on a foster care basis, you might qualify.  The adoption agency should give you relevant information.

So long as you meet the above criteria and you give your employer the right notice, you can take Statutory Adoption Leave no matter how:

  • many hours you work
  • much you are paid

You must let your employer know that you plan to take adoption leave. You need to do this within seven days of the adoption agency letting you know that you have been matched with a child. It's important to tell your employer:

  • the date from which you plan to take that leave 
  • the date that placement takes place on ('placement' is the official date when the child starts living with you)  

You must give your employer documentary proof to show that you have the right to paid Statutory Adoption Leave. This is usually a matching certificate from your adoption agency. The adoption agency must be recognised in the UK.

You must let your employer know that you plan to take adoption leave. You need to do this within seven days of the adoption agency letting you know that you have been matched with a child. It's important to tell your employer:

  • the date from which you plan to take that leave 
  • the date that placement takes place on ('placement' is the official date when the child starts living with you)  

Eligibility for Parental Order Parents

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave as an intended parent through a surrogacy arrangement, you must:

  • be an employee
  • have applied for, or intend to apply for within 6 months of birth, a Parental Order in respect of the child and expect the court to grant such an Order.

So long as you meet the above criteria and you give your employer the right notice, you can take Statutory Adoption Leave no matter how:

  • many hours you work
  • much you are paid

You must let your employer know by the 15th week before the expected week of birth (in writing if requested) that you plan to take adoption leave.

You should tell your employer the date of birth as soon as reasonably possible after the birth.  If your employer asks, you must also show them: 

  • a statutory declaration that you hold, applied for or will apply for a parental order for the child you are having with the help of the surrogate

If you don't qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave

If you don't qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave, speak to your employer. They may offer you enhanced adoption rights. You could take paid holiday, unpaid leave or parental leave.

Taking your Statutory Adoption Leave - Adopters

If you are an adopter, you can start your Statutory Adoption Leave:

  • from the date the child starts living with you
  • up to 14 days before the date you expect the child to start living with you

Your Statutory Adoption Leave can start on any day of the week. You need to tell your employer that you want to take Statutory Adoption Leave within seven days of being told that you have been matched with a child for adoption.

If it is not possible to tell your employer within seven days, you must tell them as soon as possible.

At the same time you must tell your employer when you:

  • expect the child to be placed with you
  • want your Statutory Adoption Leave to start

You can change your Statutory Adoption Leave start date if you give your employer at least 28 days' notice. Your employer should tell you within 28 days of receiving your notice, the date on which your Statutory Adoption Leave will end.

This will be 52 weeks after it starts. You can return earlier than this as long as you give your employer eight weeks' notice.

Taking your Statutory Adoption Leave – Parental Order Parents

Your adoption leave will start on the day the child is born but if you're working that day, adoption leave will start on the following day.

Time off before taking adoption leave

If you qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave you will also:

  • be able to take paid time off for up to five pre-adoption appointments if you are the main adopter (the second adopter will be allowed to take unpaid time off for two appointments)
  • be able to take unpaid time off to go to up to two antenatal appointments if you are a Parental Order Parent

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

If you have adopted a child, or are a Parental Order Parent, you and your partner could be able to enjoy shared rights to leave and pay. This can give you more flexibility and choice for your work and caring commitments during your child’s first year.

If you have problems taking your Statutory Adoption Leave

If it's difficult to take your Statutory Adoption Leave, talk to your employer. If this doesn't help, you may need to complain using your employer’s grievance procedure.

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