Adoption Leave

Employees can take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave. Adopters can return to their previous job without issue if they take up to 26 weeks’ adoption leave.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: July 22, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
statutory laws on adoption leave in UK explained by Papershift

People who are employed and looking to adopt a child have a variety or rights available to them. They are usually entitled to adoption leave and may be entitled to adoption pay. These rights are often set out in law.

But what exactly is adoption leave and how does it apply to employees and the small and medium sized businesses that employ them?

Read on for answers to these questions and many more.

Let’s begin

What is adoption leave?

Adoption leave is time away from work given to employees to look after and bond with their newly adopted child.

Who is entitled to adoption leave?

In order to be entitled to adoption leave you must have a child matched and placed for adoption through an adoption agency. If you apply directly to a court for an adoption order, you will not be eligible for adoption leave. 

You may also be eligible for adoption leave in the following situations:

  • Parents who have a child through a surrogacy arrangement and are eligible for a Parental Order
  • Foster parents who are looking after a child and are prospective adopters of the child.

What is statutory adoption leave?

Adopters who are employed may be entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory adoption leave. This is given to them to look after and bond with their new child.

Adoption leave is a ‘day one’ right, which means that there is no qualifying period in employment. Employers need proof of adoption. This is usually the matching certificate which must be from a UK adoption agency, or the written notification of a fostering for adoption placement.

When can statutory adoption leave start?

Statutory adoption leave can start in either of the following situations:

  • From the day a child starts to live with the adopter.
  • Up to 14 days before the child starts living with them.

Do I have to give notice for statutory adoption leave?

The correct notice must be given in all cases for statutory adoption leave. A prospective adopter should inform their employer within seven days of being notified that they are matched with a child or expecting a fostering for adoption placement. If this is not possible, the employee should notify the employer as soon as possible.

How long is statutory adoption leave?

Most employees can take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave from their job. Adopters can return to their previous job without issue if they take up to 26 weeks’ adoption leave.

If they return to work after 26 weeks (but before 52 weeks), they are not necessarily entitled to the same role that they left. If their position is no longer available, the employer must offer them a suitable alternative job equivalent to their previous post.

Am I entitled to any time off prior to the child being placed?

Yes, you are. Prospective adopters who are eligible for adoption leave when they are matched with a child are also entitled to:

  • Time off on five occasions if they are the main adopter, or
  • Two occasions if they are the secondary adopter

This is to allow them to attend adoption appointments.

What is statutory adoption pay?

An adopter (one of a couple) who has worked for their employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the week they are matched with a child or notified of a fostering for adoption placement, may qualify for statutory adoption pay.

This equated to 90% of earnings for the first 6 weeks, and £156.66 or 90% earnings (2022 – 2023 tax year), whichever is lower, for a further 33 weeks. To qualify they must earn at least £123 per week before tax (2022 to 2023 tax year) and give the correct notice and evidence to the employer.

What statutory paternity leave and pay am I entitled to if I am not the main adopter?

If adopting as a couple, the second adopter may be entitled to up to two weeks of statutory paternity leave and pay. Couples can choose which one of them takes statutory adoption leave and which one takes statutory paternity leave. 

To be eligible for statutory paternity leave, they must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 26 weeks and must earn at least £123 per week before tax (2022 to 2023 tax year) if they wish to receive adoption pay.

What about if I am fostering with the aim of adopting?

Statutory adoption leave or paternity leave (and pay if eligible) can begin when a fostering for adoption placement is made. 

If an adopter chooses not to take adoption leave/paternity leave at this point, they may take leave at the point when the child is matched with them for adoption (which may be some months later). Adopters are eligible for only one set of adoption/paternity leave per placement so must choose whether to take it upon fostering or wait for the full adoption to take place.

It’s important to note that while they are fostering, a fostering for adoption carer will be entitled to fostering allowances and payments, which must be paid regardless of whether they receive adoption pay.

What is shared parental leave?

Shared parental leave is statutory leave for new parents, including adopters. You must have been working for an employer for at least 26-weeks to qualify and the adopter or their partner must be eligible for statutory adoption pay or paternity pay or meet the employment and earnings test.

Adopters can choose to end their statutory adoption leave and pay early (after a minimum of two weeks) and share up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and 37 weeks of shared parental pay with their partner if they wish.

What if the adoption doesn’t take place or the child is removed for whatever reason?

If a child is no longer placed or is removed from the adoption, the adopter continues to be eligible for up to a further 8 weeks of statutory adoption leave and pay (unless this has already been used up). After this they would be expected to return to work.

What if I adopt another child?

If a further child is placed for adoption with a family during or shortly after an adoption leave and the prospective adopter is still employed, they are entitled to statutory adoption leave again.

Can an employer stop me taking adoption leave?

An employer cannot prevent adoption leave being taken. This is set out in law.

In conclusion

Adopting a child can be a happy but stressful experience. Knowing your rights can help you to concentrate on the important things rather than worrying about work.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)