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Adoption Leave

Adoption Leave

Working Families
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Adoption leave and Statutory Adoption Pay are available to employees who adopt a child, foster parents who are approved for adoption and parents who have a child through surrogacy. This article covers adoption leave, see our other article for more details on Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP).

Similar to maternity leave, employees who adopt are entitled to 52 weeks of adoption leave, regardless of length of service or the number of hours worked. Adoption leave is divided into 26 weeks Ordinary Adoption leave (OAL) and 26 weeks Additional Adoption Leave (AAL).

You have the right to return to your job after adoption leave, depending on how much leave you have taken. Your employment contract continues while you are on adoption leave and you can continue to benefit from some of your rights under your contract.

When a couple adopt, they must decide which one of them will be ‘the adopter’ for adoption leave purposes. The adopter will be entitled to adoption leave and SAP (if eligible), while the partner may be eligible for paternity leave and pay. If the couple wish to share leave more equally, if eligible they can use the shared parental leave scheme.

Who can take adoption leave?

In addition to adoptions through local authorities and other adoption agencies, parents in certain surrogacy cases and foster parents who are participating in a local authority fostering for adoption scheme may qualify for adoption leave.

The following arrangements are covered by the statutory adoption leave and pay:

  • Prospective parents who are “matched for adoption” with a child by a local authority or other adoption agency.
  • Overseas adoptions where a child enters the UK for the purposes of adoption. The rules on adoption leave differ slightly if you’re adopting from abroad.
  • Foster parents who are approved for adoption. The definition includes “fostering for adoption” schemes, which involves the placement of a child with foster parents who are also prospective adopters.
  • Parents of a child born through surrogacy. A couple who apply for a parental order in respect of a child born to a surrogate mother can take adoption leave. At least one of the parental order parents must have supplied the genetic material (sperm or egg) for the child.

There is no right to adoption leave for:

  • Step-parents who adopt their step-children.
  • Parents who have a child with the help of a surrogate but who are not eligible for a parental order (e.g., because neither of them supplied the genetic material for the child).
  • Special guardians or kinship carers (see our article on time off work for grandparents and kinship carers).


To get Statutory Adoption Leave, you must:

  • be an employee
  • give the correct notice
  • give proof of the adoption or surrogacy, if your employer asks you for it

There are additional requirements for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP). Agency workers may be entitled to SAP, but not adoption leave.

How to give notice

You must tell your employer you want to take adoption leave within seven days of being told that you’ve been matched with a child (or as soon as is reasonably practicable). In a surrogacy arrangement, you must give notice by the end of the 15th week before the child is due.

You need to let your employer know (in writing, if they request it):

  • When you expect the child to be placed with you (or when it is due if you are having a child via surrogacy).
  • When you want your adoption leave to start. This can be either the day the child starts living with you, or any date up to 14 days before you expect them to arrive, and no later than the expected date of placement. In a surrogacy arrangement, leave must start the day the child is born.

In a surrogacy arrangement, you must also give your employer notice of the day on which the child was born, as soon as is reasonably practicable.

It is advisable to give notice of Statutory Adoption Pay at the same time as notice of adoption leave. See our sample letter of notice for adoption leave and pay to an employer for those who are adopting and matched with a child through the local authority or an adoption agency.

If you want to take less than 52 weeks of adoption leave, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice to end your leave early (but it is advisable that you agree with them in advance).