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Supporting a member of staff on adoption or surrogacy leave

How to support a member of staff who wishes to adopt or is becoming a surrogate parent.


This web page provides guidance only and should be read in conjunction with the adoption and surrogacy leave policy.

All staff are entitled to take up to 52 weeks Statutory Adoption Leave, regardless of their length of service. Employees can choose to return to work before the full 52 weeks leave if they wish to do so. In the case of a couple jointly adopting a child, only one person in the couple can take adoption leave. They are known as the ‘primary adopter’.

Where a couple or an individual are adopting following surrogacy, they must either apply for a parental order or legally adopt the child. Find out more information on parental order and legal adoption of a surrogate child.

One of the adoptive parents can be eligible for adoption leave and pay and the other can be eligible for paternity leave and pay. The couple must elect which of them will take adoption leave. An employee who takes adoption leave in these circumstances can reduce their adoption leave and take shared parental leave with the other parent, provided both parents meet the relevant eligibility requirements.

To understand the rights and entitlements of your member of staff and what you need to do as their manager, please read our adoption and surrogacy policy. Your HR Advisor will be happy to discuss what you need to consider and answer any questions you may have.

Before the employee's adoption leave begins

Timing of adoption leave

Adoption leave can start on the day the child is placed for adoption or up to 14 days earlier.

To make administration and planning as easy as possible, it's important that the employee discusses the timing of their adoption leave with you and your HR Advisor as early as possible in the process.

When a member of staff notifies you that they are considering adopting a child, you'll need to meet with them as soon as practical. You’ll need to discuss when the adoption is likely to take place, how they wish to communicate this information to the rest of the team and whether they will be the primary adopter. It's important that either they, or you as their manager, inform your HR Advisor. Your HR Advisor will need to meet the employee to discuss the adoption policy and guidance with them.

Absence before adoption leave starts

Time off to attend adoption appointments

Employees who are adopting a child are entitled to take time off to attend adoption appointments.

If the employee is the ‘primary’ adopter, they can take paid time off to attend up to five adoption appointments. Where an employee is part of a couple jointly adopting a child, the partner can elect to take unpaid time off to attend up to two adoption appointments.

The purpose of the appointment is to enable the employee and their partner to have contact with the child (for example, to bond with the child before the placement). It’s also for any other purpose connected with the adoption (for example, to meet with the professionals involved in the care of the child).

The appointment must have been arranged by − or at the request of − the adoption agency. The time off must be taken before the date of the child's placement for adoption with the employee.

As manager, you will need to establish with your member of staff if they are the primary adopter, for the purpose of taking time off. And, if known, confirm the date(s) of the appointments so that cover can be put in place or work can be reallocated as necessary.

Employees who intend to apply for a parental order and expect to become the child's legal parents in a surrogacy situation have the right to unpaid time off work to accompany the birth mother for up to two antenatal appointments.

Confirming adoption dates

You should agree with your member of staff when they wish to start and end their adoption leave and sign their adoption leave application form. It is advisable to take a copy of this form for your records and ensure that your HR Advisor has also received a copy. Your HR Advisor will write to the employee to confirm adoption dates once the matching certificate has been issued by the adoption agency. They will also liaise with payroll, who will advise the employee of their adoption pay arrangements.

If the employee is on a fixed term contract which is due to expire while they are on adoption leave (before completing three months' work on their return), please contact your HR Advisor for guidance before the contract end date. You should follow the normal consultation process to investigate any possibility of an extension.

Considering adoption cover

If the role of the employee needs to be covered during the adoption leave period, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Consider whether there are alternative means of covering the role or is like for like cover required.

  2. Confirm the duration of the cover required.

  3. Consider how the cover will be funded and identify costs and any shortfall of funds using the maternity/adoption leave calculator.

  4. Consider whether the adoption role cover can be carried out as a secondment or as a development opportunity.

  5. Raise a staff request form if cover is required − providing a job description, organisation chart and confirmation of budget available from your finance manager.

  6. Find out more about the recruitment guidance available.

Other things to consider

Annual leave

The employee will continue to accrue annual leave, bank and statutory holidays and discretionary days during their adoption leave in accordance with their leave entitlement within their contract of employment. You can calculate their entitlement to annual leave by using the holiday calculator.

You should discuss and agree with your member of staff how they are planning to take their annual leave around their adoption leave. Annual leave can be taken at any time (outside of the adoption leave period), including directly prior to or directly following their adoption leave period.

If the adoption leave falls over two holiday leave year periods and they have not exhausted their entitlement for that leave year, 36.5 hours will automatically be carried forward into the next leave year. As their manager, you will need to make an adjustment on iTrent to their annual leave, including all statutory and bank holidays and discretionary days they have been unable to take whilst on adoption leave. This adjustment will need to take place at the start of the new leave year or at some time during the current leave year. The member of staff should then request any outstanding leave in the normal way via iTrent.

Cover for adoption leave

You should consider whether the department will need cover during the adoption leave period. If a replacement is required, you'll need to raise a Staff Request Form (SRF) on Stonefish. You'll need to attach the Finance Manager's confirmation that sufficient funds are available to cover the cost. If sufficient funds are not available, you may need to consider options − such as a shorter period of cover or a lower graded post.

You should also develop and agree a handover with the employee before they go on adoption leave and agree how contact will be maintained throughout their time away. You can also discuss using Keeping In Touch days (KIT) and whether these are appropriate.

Whilst your employee is on adoption leave

Contact whilst on adoption leave

It's important that you keep your member of staff up-to-date with any developments at work. You should discuss arrangements for reasonable contact during their adoption leave with them.

Keeping in Touch days (KIT days)

In agreement with the member of staff, they may take up to 10 days paid work during their adoption leave without bringing their adoption leave to an end. These are known as Keeping in Touch (KIT) days.

KIT days may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under their contract of employment. This includes training, attending a conference, committee or a team meeting or any activity undertaken for the purposes of keeping in touch with the workplace. KIT days can be taken at any stage during adoption leave.

KIT days are optional and can only take place by agreement between both you and your employee. Your employee should not be penalised for refusing to take up a KIT day. Similarly, you do not have to agree to it.

As a manager, you should keep a record of the KIT day payment forms submitted to Payroll, so you can keep track of the number of days taken.

Flexible working

If the employee is considering changing their working pattern or hours of work on return from their adoption leave, they can make a request via the Flexible Working and Leave Policy.

Read our guidance on what you should consider as their line manager.

When your employee is due to return

Confirming the return date

Before the expected return date, you should confirm arrangements with the employee − including how any annual leave may be used. The expectation is that 52 weeks' leave are taken unless an earlier return date is indicated.

Returning earlier than expected

If your employee decides to return to work earlier than initially agreed, they will need to give you and your HR Advisor at least eight weeks’ notice in writing of the new return date. By not doing so, the University could decide to postpone their return for up to eight weeks, or until their adoption leave entitlement comes to an end. If appropriate, you'll need to consult with the member of staff who is covering the adoption leave and inform them of the early return of the post holder. If this is the case, please contact your HR Advisor for further guidance.

Supporting their return to work

Supporting an employee who is returning from adoption leave is a key activity for you as a line manager. You should let other team members know their return date and arrange an appropriate re-induction programme to support the them in their return to work. This may include:

  • agreeing new objectives – these may need to be modified to ease the member of staff back into the workplace

  • considering development needs – ensure that the returning employee is updated on new or amended systems and what has happened during their absence. Introduce them to any new members of staff

  • arranging regular review meetings – these can be arranged to discuss how their return to work is progressing and managing any issues that arise

  • considering temporary flexible working arrangements, if appropriate

If an employee decides not to return to work

They should give you written notice as per their contract of employment. Please ensure they follow the University leaver guidance.

Further information

Please contact your HR Advisor if further guidance is needed.

Associated policies include:


If you have any questions, please contact the HR Advisory Team.