Adoptive leave

What is adoptive leave?

If you are a parent who is adopting alone or as part of an adopting couple, you can get 24 weeks’ leave off work with adoptive leave. Only one parent in the couple can qualify for adoptive leave.

The 24 weeks start from the date the child is placed in your care.

Your employer does not have to pay you during adoptive leave, unless it is included in your contract. You can get Adoptive Benefit, if you have enough PRSI contributions.

You can take up to 16 additional weeks’ unpaid adoptive leave, but you cannot claim Adoptive Benefit for these extra weeks.

You must give your employer 4 weeks’ notice in writing if you plan to take adoptive leave – see ‘Applying for adoptive leave’ below.

Before the adoption

Before adopting a child, you may have to attend preparation classes and pre-adoption meetings with social workers. You are entitled to paid time off work for these classes and meetings.

Who can take adoptive leave?

Qualifying adopters can take adoptive leave. A qualified adopter is either:

  • The sole adopter, in the case of a parent who is adopting a child on their own
  • The nominated parent in the case of an adopting couple

The adopting couple can choose who should take the adoptive leave (they must decide who will be the nominated parent).

An adopting couple means:

The parent who does not take adoptive leave is entitled to paternity leave.

Adoptive leave and pay

Your employer does not have to pay you while you are on adoptive leave unless it is included in your contract.

Adoptive Benefit

If you have enough PRSI contributions, you can apply for Adoptive Benefit. The Department of Social Protection will pay you Adoptive Benefit for the full 24 weeks if your adoptive leave begins on the date of adoption.

You cannot get Adoptive Benefit during the 16 weeks of additional adoptive leave.

Applying for Adoptive Benefit

You should apply for Adoptive Benefit 6 weeks before you plan to go on adoptive leave (or 12 weeks if you are self-employed).

What happens to my PRSI contributions?

While you are getting Adoptive Benefit, you will automatically get PRSI credits.

To add more PRSI credits for the time spent on unpaid additional adoptive leave, you must get your employer to complete an application form for adoptive leave credits (pdf). You do this after you return to work.

If you become sick

If you become sick while you are on adoptive leave, you can ask your employer to end your additional adoptive leave and put you on sick leave. You may then be able to get sick pay or Illness Benefit.

Applying for adoptive leave

You must give your employer 4 weeks’ notice in writing that you plan to take adoptive leave. The 4-week rule applies whether you are adopting a child in Ireland or from another country. In your letter, tell your employer the date when you expect to start your leave.

If you want to take the additional 16 weeks’ adoptive leave, you must also give your employer at least 4 weeks’ written notice. You can give notice about the adoptive leave and the additional adoptive leave at the same time.

If you do not give notice, you may lose your rights to adoptive leave.

Certificate of placement

You must give your employer a certificate of placement confirming the adoption. Do this within 4 weeks after the day of placement.

Can I postpone adoptive leave?

If your child has to stay in hospital or go into hospital before you have taken your adoptive leave or additional leave, you can ask your employer to postpone (or delay) the leave.

Other types of leave for adoptive parents

Various types of statutory leave are available for adoptive parents. You may be entitled to:

  • Parental leave: Parents can take 26 weeks’ unpaid leave from work to look after their children aged under 12
  • Paternity leave: The parent who is not taking adoptive leave can take 2 weeks’ leave in the first 6 months after the baby is adopted
  • Parent’s leave: Adoptive parents can take 7 weeks’ leave within 2 years of the placement of the child with the family

What happens to my annual leave?

In general, you are treated as though you are in employment while you are on adoptive leave and additional adoptive leave. This means you continue to build up your right to annual leave.

You are also entitled to leave for any public holidays that take place during your adoptive leave and additional adoptive leave.

Returning to work after adoptive leave

By law, you have the right to return to the same job with the same contract of employment. If this would be too difficult for your employer to arrange, they must provide suitable alternative work on terms that are not ‘less favourable’ than in your previous job.

You have the same rights to return to work as with maternity leave, and you must also give 4 weeks’ notice of your intention to return.

If the business where you work is sold while you are on adoptive leave or additional adoptive leave, your rights on returning to work stay the same under the new employer.

The law protects you against penalisation and unfair dismissal. If you have a dispute with your employer over adoptive rights, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission – see below.

Making a complaint

If you have a complaint or dispute about adoptive leave, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring.

The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where you have a good reason for not making the complaint within the normal time limit.

Use the online complaint form on

More information

For more information about your rights and adoptive leave, contact the Workplace Relations Commission’s Information and Customer Service. You can also read the booklet Your Adoptive Leave Rights Explained (pdf).

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90

Adoptive Benefit Section

Department of Social Protection
McCarter's Road

Tel: (01) 471 5898
Locall: 0818 690 690 (Note: the rates charged for using 0818 (Lo-call) numbers may vary)
Page edited: 12 June 2023