Adopting – Rights for Parents

Site updated on February 17, 2020

Over the past couple of years, Adoption Rights have been brought into line with Maternity Rights, with Adopters now entitled to essentially the same rights. For most of these rights you do need to be an employee ( so you have a contract of employment) but some rights are now available to Agency workers – contact our Advice Line for more information.

Since April 2003 couples who adopt a child became entitled to a  range of benefits. This right exists for adoption up to the age of 18 years. The rights only apply at the moment if the adoption is organised by a recognised adoption agency.

Adoptive parents have a choice –  one partner can opt for either paid adoption leave or 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave; the other partner takes the other form of leave.

The rights are now basically the same as Maternity and Paternity leave and pay (refer to these sections for more information). The major difference is that you can decide which of you takes the Adoption Leave and which takes the Paternity Leave – it is your choice.

Shared Parental Leave is also now available to Adopters; see the section on Shared Parental leave or give us a call.

Ordinary Adoption Leave is for a period of up to 26 weeks, with a right to a further period of additional adoption leave of 26 weeks, giving a total of up to one year’s leave. To qualify for Adoption leave you no longer need  26 weeks’ continuous service with the same employer by the week in which an adoption is approved. Your right to adoption leave is in addition to the existing right to up to 18 weeks’ parental leave. (For more information, see section on Parental Leave).

Adoption leave can start:

  • up to 14 days before the date the child starts living with you (UK adoptions)
  • when the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of this date (overseas adoptions)
  • the day the child’s born or the day after (if you’ve used a surrogate to have a child)


Time off to meet with the child

Employees (and Agency workers with more than 12 weeks service with the same employer) are now entitled to some time off work to meet with the child and social workers. One partner can have up to 5 paid appointments, whilst the other partner can take up to 2 unpaid appointments from their work.


Statutory Adoption Leave

Within 7 days of being matched with a child you must tell your employer:

  • how much leave you want
  • your leave start date
  • the ‘date of placement’ – the date the child is placed with you

Your employer can ask for this in writing and for proof of the adoption.

Your employer must confirm your leave start and end dates within 28 days.

Statutory Adoption Pay is now identical to Statutory Maternity Pay. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of the your average pay, the rest is the statutory level which is currently (April 2020) £151.20 per week and is subject to a number of qualifying rules. It is paid for up to 39 weeks of Adoption Leave.

The Paternity option for Adopting is exactly the same as Ordinary Paternity Leave – 2 weeks paid leave –  refer to that section for more detail.

As with statutory maternity and paternity leave, there is the right to return to the same job following absence on ordinary adoption leave, and you are protected from suffering any detriment or from being unfairly dismissed for reasons relating to the taking of adoption leave.

Adopting parents are also now entitled to take time off work to meet the child – essentially the equivalent of ante natal rights for birth parents.

You will need to decide for yourself who is the “primary” adopter and who is the “secondary” adopter. The primary adopter is entitled to five paid visits/meetings with social workers and the child. The partner (or secondary adopter) is entitled to two unpaid visits.

There is no service requirement for these rights.

Surrogacy arrangements

To qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay, you must have worked continuously for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby’s due. All the other conditions for qualifying for pay and leave are the same as for adoptive parents. You will need to have a Parental Order granted by the Courts.

If you’re genetically related to the child (ie the egg or sperm donor), you can choose to get paternity leave instead. You can’t get both.


You don’t qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay if you:

  • arrange a private adoption
  • become a special guardian or kinship carer
  • adopt a stepchild
  • adopt a family member

For more information on any of these rights, just give us a call.

© Your Job Rights 2016

Site Design by JMB Creative