Adoption and surrogacy

This page provides information on rights for adoptive and surrogate parents.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Teddy bear article illustration

Your rights as an adopter

Adoption leave begins on the date chosen by the employee and lasts for up to 52 weeks.

As an adopter, you are entitled to choose to begin leave

  • on the day on which your child is placed with you for adoption, or
  • a pre-determined date which is no more than 14 days before your child is expected to be placed, and
  • no later than the day of the placement.

In the case of overseas adoption, the leave can start

  • on the day your child arrives in the UK, or
  • on a specified day within 28 days of that date.

There are two situations in which the leave entitlement may end early:

  1. Where the placement has been disrupted, or
  2. where the employee is dismissed while he or she is absent on leave.


Who is the adopter?

An adopter is the person who has been matched with a child for adoption or, where two people have been matched jointly, whichever of them has elected to be the child’s adopter for the purposes of the leave regulations.

Where a couple adopt jointly only one parent can claim adoption leave. However, the other may be entitled to paternity leave and pay and to shared parental leave and pay.

The leave entitlements apply to each adoption placement rather than each child. Where more than one child is being adopted as part of the same arrangement, the employee is only entitled to one period of adoption leave.

Adoption rights also apply to children adopted from overseas. This is covered in the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2003.


Notice for taking leave

You must give your employer notice of your intention to take adoption leave specifying

  1. the date on which your child is expected to be placed with you for adoption and
  2. the date you want your leave to begin.

The notice must be in writing, if your employer requests this. Notice must be given to your employer

  • within seven days of the date on which you are notified of having been matched with your child, or
  • as soon as is reasonably practicable.



Your employer may require evidence relating to the adoption. This should be in the form of one or more documents issued by the adoption agency that matches you with your child.

These must contain

  • the name and address of the agency,
  • the name and date of birth of your child,
  • the date on which you were notified that you were matched with your child, and
  • the date on which the agency expects to place your child with you.


Changing your notice period

You may change your notice provided you give your employer at least 28 days' notice, or if that’s not possible, they tell them as soon as is reasonably practicable.


Adoption pay, terms and conditions while on leave

While on adoption leave, you are entitled to the benefit of all the terms and conditions of employment that would have applied if you had not been absent, except your salary.

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) is available for 39 weeks to qualifying employees. NHS occupational adoption pay provides

  • 8 weeks full pay (inclusive of SAP) and
  • 18 weeks half pay plus SAP

for employees with at least 12 months service by the week they are notified they have been matched with a child.

As an employee, you must not be dismissed or suffer a detriment because you are taking or have sought to take adoption leave.


Returning to work

If you return to work after ordinary adoption leave (the first 26 weeks), you are entitled to return to the job in which you were employed before the absence.

If you return to work after a period of additional adoption leave (between 26 and 52 weeks) you are entitled to return to the job in which you were employed before the leave. If that is not reasonably practicable, then you are entitled to a job which is both suitable and appropriate for you to do and is on the same or better terms and conditions.

If you wish to return to work before the end of the full 52-week adoption leave period, you are required to give your employer at least 8 weeks' notice of their return.


During adoption leave

You can work up to 10 days using your ‘Keep in Touch (KIT)‘ days during adoption leave.

Working on KIT days needs to be agreed between you and your employer. You cannot be forced to work during your adoption leave but KIT days can be a good way of staying in touch, refreshing skills, and facilitating your return to work.

You will continue to receive adoption pay in the period when KIT days are worked. It is up to you and your employer to agree any additional pay for the work done. Under the NHS Scheme, KIT days are paid at your normal daily rate minus any adoption pay received for that day.


Time off for adoption appointments

As an adopter, you have a statutory right to paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments once you have been matched with a child.

Your partner has right to unpaid time off to attend up to two appointments.

NHS employees who are being assessed for adoption have a contractual right to reasonable paid time off for essential meetings.


Rights for intended parents in surrogacy arrangements

If you qualify and plan to apply for a Parental Order after your child is born, the primary carer will be eligible for adoption leave and pay entitlements. As the primary carer, you need to tell your employer by the 15th week before the due date that you intend to take adoption leave.

You are also entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments with the birth mother. Read more information on surrogacy and leave rights.