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 (paternity and maternity leave), but there are some key differences. Here's our guide for prospective adopters on what they need to know about Adoption Leave in the UK (as of January 2023).

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 (the ‘main adopter’), but the other partner could be eligible for shared parental leave.

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

  • Annual leave 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 self employed or 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 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave are 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.

Employees’ employment rights are protected when they’re on Adoption Leave, so they still have the right to be paid, take holidays, and return to work at the end of their leave period.

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 by the employer for 39 weeks from the start date, and the amount is:

  • The first 6 weeks: 90% of your average weekly earnings. (You’ll have tax and National Insurance deducted as usual.)
  • The next 33 weeks: 90% of your average weekly earnings, or £156.66 a week (whichever is lower, before tax and NI)

The remaining 13 weeks, if you choose to take them off, will be unpaid leave.

These amounts are the legal minimum - if your company has an Adoption Leave policy, or it counts adoption as part of standard parental leave, you might be eligible for more. For overseas adoptions, the amounts are the same.

How does Adoption Leave work for surrogate parents?

Surrogate parents are parents who will act as adoptive parent for the child but will not be biologically related. Rules for a surrogacy arrangement work 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.

Foster parents have the same entitlement. If you’re fostering for adoption, your eligibility starts when the child starts living with you.