Adoption and surrogacy leave - parents' rights

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Health Assured team

17 December 2019

Many intended parents embark on the journey of adoption and surrogacy for various personal reasons. Balancing the needs of work and family life is particularly important when becoming a new parent and employees should be aware of their legal rights in the workplace.


In England and Wales, Adoption is defined as a legal process whereby parental responsibility for a child is transferred over from the birth parent or other person with parental responsibility to their adopter. Surrogacy is a mutual arrangement between two parties, often supported by a legal document confirming a woman agrees to carry a child on behalf of another who is or will become the parent(s) of the child.


Statutory adoption leave

Statutory adoption leave enables an intended parent to up to take 52 weeks of leave, regardless of their length of service. This consists of 26 weeks of ordinary adoption leave and 26 weeks of additional adoption leave. Only one parent can take statutory adoption leave, referred to as the ‘main adopter’ in this article, the other parent may be eligible for paternity and/or shared parental leave.



To become eligible for statutory adoption leave, the main adopter must be an employee, give the correct notice and give proof of the adoption or surrogacy if required by the employer.


Starting adoption leave

Statutory adoption leave can start either from the date of the child’s placement or on any date up to 14 days before the expected date of placement. If the main adopter wishes to change the start date of adoption leave, the employer must be informed with the correct notice, of at least 28 days, before the start date given in the original notice.


The main adopter can take paid time off before the adoption placement to attend up to five adoption appointments, for a maximum of 6.5 hours per appointment. If a couple have been jointly approved for adoption, the other parent is entitled to take unpaid time off to attend up to two appointments. An employer can request proof of the appointment date and times.


Adoption leave ending

In the event that the child’s placement unexpectedly comes to end during adoption leave, employees do have options in regards to their return to the workplace. In the following circumstances, the main adopter can choose to either return to work, or remain on adoption leave for up to eight weeks after the end of the week in which the placement ended; the child passes away during the adoption leave, the child is returned to the adoption agency, or, the adoption agency informs that the placement will not occur during the course of the adoption leave.


Statutory adoption pay

Statutory adoption pay is paid to the main adopter for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, the weekly pay amount is 90% of average weekly earnings. Following this and for the remaining 33 weeks, the weekly pay amount is currently £148.68 or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.


To qualify for statutory adoption pay, the main adopter must have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks, by the week matched with a child, earn on average at least the £118 per week (for 2019/20) and give correct notice and proof of the adoption.



Surrogate mother’s remain the legal mother of the child throughout pregnancy, until the legal rights are transferred to the intended parents after birth. Surrogate mother’s therefore have the same rights as pregnant employees, which entitles them up to 52 weeks maternity leave.


For intended parents of a surrogacy arrangement, to become the legal parents of the child, an application for a Parental Order or Adoption Order must be made after the birth.


Annual leave and parental leave may also be available as options to consider to extend leave after becoming a new parent. See further information on ACAS regarding parental leave eligibility and rights.



If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0800 030 5182

ROI: 1800 936 071

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