Adoptive leave


Under the Adoptive Leave Act 1995, as amended by the Adoptive Leave Act 2005 only the adoptive mother is entitled to avail of adoptive leave from employment, except in the case where a male is the sole adopter.

Since 1 March 2007 you are entitled to 24 weeks' adoptive leave. You are also entitled to take 16 weeks' additional unpaid adoptive leave after your adoptive leave ends – see below.

Pay during adoptive leave

Your right to adoptive leave means that you have a right to a period of leave from employment without pay. However, your contract of employment may provide for payment during the period of leave. If you have enough PRSI contributions you may qualify for Adoptive Benefit which is paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection while you are on adoptive leave. You will not get Adoptive Benefit for the full 24 weeks unless your adoptive leave begins on the date of placement.

Additional unpaid adoptive leave

Since 1 March 2007 you are also entitled to take up to a further 16 weeks' additional adoptive leave, but this period is not covered by Adoptive Benefit, nor is your employer obliged, unless otherwise agreed, to make any payment during this period. If you become ill you can ask your employer if you can terminate your unpaid additional adoptive leave. If your employer agrees you would then transfer onto sick leave and may receive Illness Benefit or sick pay.

Paternity leave

New parents (other than the mother of the child) can get 2 weeks’ statutory paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child on or after 1 September 2016.

Before the adoption

You are entitled to paid time off work to attend preparation classes and pre-adoption meetings with social workers required during the pre-adoption process.

Public holidays and annual leave

You are entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during your adoptive leave (including additional adoptive leave). The right of employees to leave for public holidays is set down in Section 21 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Time spent on adoptive leave (including additional adoptive leave) is treated as though you have been in employment, and this time can be used to accumulate annual leave and public holiday entitlement.

Employment rights

Under the adoptive leave legislation all employment rights (except remuneration and superannuation benefits) associated with the employment, such as annual leave and seniority, are protected during adoptive leave and additional adoptive leave.

Postponement of adoptive leave

Since 30 January 2006 if the adopted child is hospitalised, the period of leave or additional leave may be postponed, provided that the employer agrees.

Returning to work following adoptive leave

The employee has the same rights to return to work as with maternity leave, and must also give 4 weeks' notice of the intention to return. You are entitled to return to the job you had immediately before the leave, unless this is not reasonably practicable for the employer. Where this is the case, then your employer must offer you a suitable and appropriate alternative. The terms and conditions of the alternative and the capacity under which you are to be employed, must not be less favourable than your job before going on leave.

PRSI contributions: you will automatically be awarded PRSI credits while you are getting Adoptive Benefit. If you avail of unpaid additional adoptive leave you must get your employer to complete an application form for adoptive leave 'credits' (pdf), after you return to work.

You are protected against unfair dismissal for claiming your rights under adoptive leave legislation.

The rights in relation to return to work apply equally to a new employer where the business has changed hands while the employee was on leave.


Notice: You must give 4 weeks’ notice to your employer of your intention to take adoptive leave (for both foreign and domestic adoptions) before the expected placement of the child. As soon as is reasonably practicable you must give your employer the expected date of the placement. If you intend to take the 16 weeks' additional adoptive leave you must provide your employer with at least 4 weeks written notice. Both these notices can be given at the same time.

It is important to comply with the notice requirements as failure to do so may cause loss of rights.

How to apply

You must notify your employer in writing of your intention to avail of adoptive leave. You must give 4 weeks’ notice and your letter to your employer should clearly outline the date on which you intend to commence adoptive leave. You must give your employer a certificate of placement within 4 weeks of the date of the placement.

If you need further information about adoptive leave you should contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service. You can read more information in the booklet, Your Adoptive Leave Rights Explained (pdf).

Complaints, disputes and grievances relating to adoptive leave can be referred within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.

You should apply to the Adoptive Benefit Section of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection 5 weeks before you intend to start adoptive leave.

Where to apply

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90

Adoptive Benefit Section

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
McCarter's Road

Tel: (01) 471 5898
Locall: 1890 690 690 (Note: the rates charged for using 1890 (Lo-call) numbers may vary)
Page edited: 28 March 2018