Becoming a parent is a wonderful milestone in life. As any parent will tell you, it doesn’t come without challenges, and when the big day comes, parents will need some time off work to settle in to their new life.

Adoption Leave shares similarities with other types of parental leave (maternity and paternity), but there are some key differences. Here's our guide to the basics of what you need to know about adoption leave in the UK (as of  January 2021).

What is Adoption Leave?

Adoption Leave is the planned absence people take from work after they've adopted a child, to give them time to welcome their new child into the family. It also applies to parents having a child through surrogacy (which we cover below). There is no maternity or paternity adoption leave –  they are the same thing, and both are covered by adoption leave legislation.

Only one person in a parenting couple can take Adoption Leave, but the other partner could be eligible for shared parental leave.

During Adoption Leave, employees keep the existing terms and benefits of their employment:

  • Holiday accrual
  • The right to pay rises
  • The right to return to the original job afterwards (or a suitable alternative)

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave, you need to:

  • Be an employee (not a contractor)
  • Provide proof of the adoption (or surrogacy)
  • Give reasonable notice to your employer before it starts

Those that are genetically related to the child can choose to take paternity leave instead (but can’t have both).

Employees can’t claim Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay if they arrange a private adoption, adopt a stepchild or family member, or become a special guardian or kinship carer.

How much time off do you get for Adoption Leave?

Statutory Adoption Leave can be up to 52 weeks. There are two parts:

  • Ordinary Adoption Leave - 26 weeks
  • Additional Adoption Leave - 26 weeks

The difference is that the Additional Adoption Leave is optional, and some choose to return to work after the 26. has a useful online planner that helps you calculate how much leave you could be eligible for if your circumstances are unusual.

Those on Adoption Leave can also get paid time off from work to go to 5 adoption appointments, after they’ve been matched with a child.

When does Adoption Leave start?

Adoption leave begins either up to 14 days before the child starts living with their new parents, or within 28 days of the child arriving in the UK, if they’re being adopted from abroad.

For surrogate adoptions, it can begin the day the child is born. If these dates change at all, parents must tell their employers within 28 days, and employers need 8 weeks notice if a change to the return-to-work date is desired.

Can you get paid on Adoption Leave?  

Yes, you can.

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay, you need to have been continuously employed by your employer for 26 weeks or more by the time you’re matched with the child. You also need to be earning at least £116 per week on average before tax, give a sufficient notice period, and provide proof of the adoption (or surrogacy).

Statutory Adoption Pay is paid up to 39 weeks from the day it starts, and the amount is 90% of your average weekly earnings. (You’ll have tax and National Insurance deducted as usual.) That’s the legal minimum - if your company has an Adoption Leave policy, or count adoption as part of standard parental leave, you might be eligible for more.

How does Adoption Leave work for surrogate parents?

Surrogate parents are parents who will act as parent for the child but will not be biologically related. It works the same as standard adoption leave, with a few exceptions.

To be eligible, you must:

  • intend to apply for a parental order and have no reason to believe it won’t be granted.
  • have been continuously employed by your employer for 26 weeks or more by the 15th week before the baby is due.

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