Adoption and surrogacy leave and pay

Parents who are adopting have the right to take adoption leave, which works in a similar way to maternity and paternity leave

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Time off for adoption appointments


Adopters (only one partner in an adopting couple) are entitled to paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments for a maximum of six-and-a-half hours each. This applies to employees from day one and agency workers with 12 weeks’ service in the same job.

In couples jointly approved for adoption, the partner of someone taking paid adoption leave can take unpaid time off to attend up to two adoption appointments of up to six-and-a-half hours each.

The appointment can be for contact with the child or for another purpose so long as it is arranged or requested by an adoption agency. It applies to appointments made once the agency has notified you that a child is, or is expected to be, placed with you but before the date of the placement.

Parents in a surrogacy arrangement are entitled to time off to attend antenatal appointments.

Statutory adoption leave

Adoption leave is available, so long as qualifying criteria are met, to a single parent who adopts a child, and to one partner in a couple who are jointly approved for adoption. The other partner, if eligible, is entitled to paternity leave. Adoption leave also applies to a parent whose child is born through surrogacy, with a second parent being entitled to paternity leave.

Adoption leave can be shared under the shared parental leave scheme.

To qualify for statutory adoption leave, you must be an employee but it is a day one right. You must be the adopter (only one parent can take adoption leave) and must have notified the adoption agency that you agree to the placement.

Adoption leave is also available to one parent whose child is born through surrogacy.

You must give the relevant noticeas follows:

  • If you are adopting your child: within seven days of being matched with a child, you must tell your employer how much leave you want, when you want it to start, and the date the child is placed with you.
  • Adoption leave cannot begin earlier than 14 days before the date on which your child is placed with you.
  • If you are adopting from overseas with a partner, you must also sign form SC6, which confirms that you are not taking paternity leave or pay.
  • If your child is born through a surrogacy arrangement: at least 15 weeks before the expected week of birth, you must tell your employer the due date and when you want to start your leave.

You can change the date of your adoption leave if you give your employer notice. This must be at least 28 days before the new date, or as soon as is reasonably practicable.

You can use this online planner to work out when you can take adoption leave:.

You can take up to 52 weeks’ statutory adoption leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘ordinary adoption leave’ (OAL) and the last 26 weeks as ‘additional adoption leave’ (AOL).

Statutory adoption pay

Statutory adoption pay (SAP) for those who qualify is paid for up to 39 weeks, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of average pay and the remainder at either the statutory amount, or at 90% of earnings if this is lower. 

To qualify for SAP you must have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks by the week you were matched with a child AND earn at least the lower earnings limit, which is updated annually.

Rights during adoption leave

All your contractual terms and conditions stay the same during your statutory adoption leave, except for pay. This includes annual leave, which will continue to accrue during your leave, and you will need to agree with your employer when you can take it. They may allow you to add it on to the end of your adoption leave.

Your adoption leave counts towards your period of continuous service for the purpose of preserving your employment rights.

Returning to work after adoption leave

You are entitled to return to work after the end of your adoption leave without giving your employer any notice. You only need to give notice if you intend to return earlier, in which case you must give them at least eight weeks’ notice of your intended return date (although they may agree to your return with shorter notice).

When you return to work after your ordinary adoption leave (OAL), you are entitled to the same job, seniority, pension and other rights as if you had not been on leave. If you return after additional adoption leave (AAL) you have the right to return to the same job unless your employer can show that this is not reasonably practicable. In that case, they must offer you another job that is suitable and appropriate for you, on the same terms and conditions.  

If you decide not to return, you should give notice to end your employment in the usual way. You do not have to give back any SAP, but there may be conditions attached to any additional contractual adoption pay that you received.

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