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Law guide

Ordinary paternity leave - UK and overseas adoptions

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Different rules and criteria apply depending on whether the employee or their partner is adopting a child from the UK or from overseas.

UK adoptions

Qualifying criteria for statutory ordinary paternity leave (OPL)

An employee qualifies for OPL when adopting a child from the UK if they:

  • Are married to, in a civil partnership with or the partner of the child's adopter, whether or not they are also jointly adopting the child
  • Have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing with the other joint adoptive parent or the individual adopter
  • Are not taking statutory adoption leave and pay
  • Have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the week in which they are notified of having been 'matched' with the child. This is the date that the adoption agency notifies the adaptor of the details of a child that they believe is suitable for adoption. This is known as the 'match date'
  • Continue to work for their employer up to the date that the child is placed with the adopter (starts living with them)
  • Will be taking time off for the sole purpose of supporting the adopter and/or to care for the child
  • Have notified their employer no more than seven days after the adopter has been notified that they have been matched with a child of when they want to start their OPL
Notification of ordinary paternity leave

To qualify for OPL, an employee should notify their employer of their intention to take it and specify:

  • The match date
  • The date on which the child is expected to be placed with the employee (the expected date of placement or EDP)
  • The date upon which the employee wants to start their leave
  • How much leave they want to take
You should notify your employer as soon as it's reasonably practicable if you're unable to notify them within seven days of being told you've been matched.

Your employer can request that you provide this notification in writing and that you also provide a written declaration stating that you satisfy the conditions that entitle you to take OPL and that you will be taking the time off to support the child's adopter mother and/or care for the child.

In addition, you should provide your employer with a further notice as soon as reasonably practicable after the child's placement, of the date on which the child was actually placed. Your employer can also request you to provide this notice in writing.

The start and duration of ordinary paternity leave

Eligible employees can choose to take either one or two whole weeks' statutory ordinary paternity leave. They cannot take it as odd days or as two separate weeks.

The duration of OPL remains the same regardless of the number of children that are being adopted at any one time.

OPL can begin any time from the date of the child's placement with the adopter but must be completed within 56 days of this date.

You can choose to begin OPL on one of the following dates:

  • The date on which the child is placed with you or your partner, even if this is earlier or later than the EDP. If you are at work on that date, your leave begins on the day after
  • Another date chosen by you that takes place after the EDP
  • A date falling a specified number of days after the EDP
Where you have chosen to begin your leave on a particular date and the child is not placed with you or your partner/spouse on or before that date, then you must vary your choice of start date by substituting it to a later date or one of the above-mentioned options. In these circumstances, you should:

  • Discuss the situation with your employer as soon as possible
  • Give the appropriate notice to change the start date
Changing the start date of leave

You can change the OPL start date so long as they give you the following notice:

  • If you want to change your leave so that it starts on the date that the child is placed with the adopter, at least 28 days before the date specified in your notice as the EDP
  • If you want to change your leave so that it starts on a particular date, 28 days before that date
  • If you want to change your leave so that it starts a specified number of days after the after the date on which the child is placed with the adopter, at least 28 days before the date falling the same number of days after the EDP specified in the employees notice, e.g. if you want to start your leave 14 days after the child is placed and the EDP specified in the employees notice is 16 July, they must notify you of the new date on 2 July, i.e. 28 days before the 14th day after 16 July
Your employer can request you to provide this notice in writing. If you can't comply with the notice periods, you should give notice as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so.

Overseas adoptions

Qualifying criteria for statutory ordinary paternity leave

An employee qualifies for statutory ordinary paternity leave (OPL) when adopting a child from overseas if they:

  • Are either one of two parents jointly adopting a child or is married to, in a civil partnership or the partner of the child's adopter.
  • Have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing with the other joint adoptive parent or the individual adopter
  • Are not taking statutory adoption leave and pay
  • Have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the week that the adopter receives an 'official notification' or by the time they want their OPL to begin, whichever is later
  • Continue to work for their employer up to the date of the child's entry into the UK
  • Will be taking time off for the sole purpose of supporting the adopter and/or to care for the child
  • Give their employer the correct notification
Official notification is written notification issued by or on behalf of the relevant domestic authority (In England this will usually be the Department for Education) that the authority either:

  • Is prepared to issue a certificate to the overseas authority dealing with the adoption of the child
  • Has issued a certificate and sent it to that authority
In either case, the notification certificate confirms that the other or main adopter:

  • Is eligible to adopt
  • Has been approved as being a suitable adoptive parent
Notification of ordinary paternity leave

To qualify for OPL in relation to an overseas adoption, you should notify your employer of your intention to take paternity leave and specify:

  • The date on which the you or your partner/spouse received the official notification
  • The date on which the child is expected to enter the United Kingdom:
Both of these dates should be provided to your employer within 28 days of the adopter receiving the official notification if you already have the necessary 26 weeks' qualifying service. If the official notification is received BEFORE you have the necessary qualifying service, you must provide this information within 28 days of completing the 26 weeks' qualifying service.

  • The date when you want to start your leave. This date should be provided at least 28 days before the date you want your OPL to start. OPL cannot start before the child has entered the United Kingdom.
A further notice will be required after the child has entered the UK. You must inform your employer of the date upon which the child entered the UK within 28 days of the child's date of entry.

Your employer can request you to provide any of the above notifications in writing.

If your employer requests it, you must also provide a written declaration stating that you satisfy the conditions that entitle you to take paternity leave and that you will be taking the time off to support the child's adopter mother and/or care for the child. This should be provided to you within 14 days of the request.

You must tell your employer as soon as is reasonably practicable if you find out that the child will not be entering the UK.

The start and duration of ordinary paternity leave

Eligible employees can choose to take either one or two whole weeks' statutory ordinary paternity leave in relation to an overseas adoption. They cannot take it as odd days or as two separate weeks.

The duration of OPL remains the same regardless of the number of children that are being adopted at any one time.

OPL can begin any time from the date of the child's entry into the UK (the date of entry), but it must be completed within 56 days of this date.

You can choose to begin your OPL on one of the following dates:

  • The date of entry
  • Another date chosen by you after the date of entry
Changing the start date of leave

You can change your mind about the date on which you want to start your OPL providing that you tell your employer at least 28 days in advance of the new date.

Additional paternity leave (APL)

In April 2010 new regulations came into force that entitled eligible husbands or partners of adopters to take additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks (in addition to the two weeks that they are already entitled to under ordinary paternity leave) during the first year after the child's placement for adoption.

The right to take APL only applies to adopting parents who are notified that they have been matched with a child (for UK adoptions) or have received official notification (for overseas adoptions) on or after 3 April 2011.

APL can only be taken once the adopter has returned to work and the child has been with its adoptive parents for 20 weeks.

A number of requirements must be satisfied in order for an employee to qualify to take APL, including that the adopter has not taken their full entitlement to adoption leave and that they have, or are about to, return to work. Certain other criteria, such as providing minimum notice periods and a written declaration for employers containing compulsory information, will apply.