Understanding employees’ parental leave rights for adoption

Parental leave is an employment provision for new parents, providing them with the time to bond with their new child and adapt to the changes that a new family member brings.

Here in the UK, this right extends to adoptive parents as well.

As an employer, it is important for you to know your employees’ rights regarding adoption leave so as not to face legal consequences.

Statutory Adoption Leave

Adoptive parents have the right to leave under the Statutory Adoption Leave (SAL).

This provision ensures that employees who are newly matched with a child for adoption can take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave. This period comprises 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave, followed by an optional 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave.

The adoption leave can begin from the date of the child coming to live with the employee, or up to 14 days before the expected placement date.


To qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave, employees must give the correct notice, and must also provide proof of the adoption or surrogacy via official documents.

Self-employed individuals, including contractors and freelancers, are not eligible for Statutory Adoption Leave, but they may qualify for statutory adoption pay or other forms of support.

Statutory Adoption Pay

During the adoption leave period, eligible employees are entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP).

For the first 6 weeks, they receive 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings. Following this, for the next 33 weeks, they receive £172.48 or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

It is worth noting that to be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay, employees must have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks by the week they were matched with a child.

Notice requirements

Employees are required to inform their employers of their intention to take adoption leave within seven days of being notified that they have been matched with a child for adoption.

However, if this is not reasonably practical, they should inform their employer as soon as possible.

Protection against unfair treatment

Adoption leave rights are fortified with protections against unfair treatment or dismissal.

Employees are protected from unfair dismissal due to exercising their rights to adoption leave.

Furthermore, they retain their employment rights while on adoption leave, such as the accrual of holiday entitlement.

Enhancements to statutory rights

It’s important to note that many employers choose to enhance the statutory rights, offering more generous adoption leave and pay provisions than the statutory amounts.

If you’re an employer and would like advice about adoption leave or enhancing the statutory rights of your employees, please contact us.

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