Adoptive Parents – Rights to Leave & Pay

Adoption leave & pay


To qualify for adoption leave, an employee must:

  • be *newly matched with a child for adoption by an adoption agency
  • have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the week in which they are notified of being matched with a child for adoption

*Adoption leave and pay is not available in circumstances where a child is not newly matched for adoption, for example when a step-parent is adopting a partner’s children.

Length of adoption leave

Adopters are entitled to up to 26 weeks’ ordinary adoption leave followed immediately by up to 26 weeks’ additional adoption leave – a total of up to 52 weeks’ leave.

Ordinary adoption leave is normally paid leave.

Additional adoption leave is usually unpaid although an adopter may have contractual rights to pay during his period of additional adoption leave.

They can choose to start their leave:

  • from the date of the child’s placement (whether this is earlier or later than expected), or
  • from a fixed date which can be up to 14 days before the expected date of placement.

Leave can start on any day of the week.

Only one period of leave is available irrespective of whether more then one child is placed for adoption as part of the same arrangement.

If the child’s placement ends during the adoption leave period, the adopter can continue adoption leave for up to eight weeks after the end of the placement.

Statutory Adoption Pay

During their adoption leave, most adopters are entitled to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) from their employers.

Statutory Adoption Pay is paid by employers for up to 26 weeks. The rate of Statutory Adoption Pay is the same as the standard rate of Statutory Maternity Pay – from April 2003, this will be £100 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is less than £100.

Adopters who have average weekly earnings below the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance Contributions (£75 a week from April 2002) do not qualify for SAP. They should contact their adoption agency as they may be able to receive financial support in relation to their adoption payment. Additional financial support may be available through Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or Tax Credits. Further information is available from your local Jobcentre Plus office or Social Security office.

Notice of intention to take adoption leave

Adopters are required to inform their employers of their intention to take adoption leave within 7 days of being notified by their adoption agency that they have been matched with a child for adoption, unless this is not reasonably practicable. They need to tell their employers:

  • when the child is expected to be placed with them and
  • when they want their adoption leave to start.

Adopters can change their mind about the date on which they want their leave to start providing they tell their employer at least 28 days in advance (unless this is not reasonably practicable). They must tell their employer the date they expect any payments of SAP to start at least 28 days in advance, unless this is not reasonably practicable.

Employers have 28 days in which to respond to their employees’ notification of their leave plans. An employer must write to the employee, setting out the date on which they expect the employee to return to work if the full entitlement to adoption leave is taken. A model letter for employers to use (if they wish to do so) is now available.

Matching certificate

Employees must give their employer documentary evidence – from their adoption agency as evidence of their entitlement to SAP. Employers can also ask for this as evidence of entitlement for adoption leave. Employees should ask their adoption agency for this documentary evidence, which may be provided in the form of a matching certificate which includes basic information on matching and expected placement dates. Click here to access matching certificate.

Contractual benefits

Employees are entitled to the benefit of their normal terms and conditions of employment, except for terms relating to wages or salary (unless their contract of employment provides otherwise), throughout their 26-week ordinary adoption leave period. However, most adopters are entitled to SAP during this period. If the employee has a contractual right to adoption leave as well as the statutory right, he may take advantage of whichever is the more favourable. Any adoption pay to which he has a contractual right reduces the amount of SAP to which he is entitled.

During additional adoption leave, the employment contract continues and some contractual benefits and obligations remain in force, for example compensation in the event of redundancy and notice periods.

Return to work after adoption leave

Adopters who intend to return to work at the end of their full adoption leave entitlement do not have to give any further notification to their employers.

Adopters who want to return to work before the end of their adoption leave period, must give their employers 28 days’ notice of the date they intend to return.

Protection from detriment and dismissal

Employees are protected from suffering detriment or unfair dismissal for reasons related to taking, or seeking to take, adoption leave. Employees who believe they have been treated unfairly can complain to an employment tribunal.

Employers’ recovery of payments

Employers can recover the amount of Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) they pay out in the same way as they can claim back Statutory Maternity Pay. Employers can claim back 92% of the payments they make, with those eligible for small employers’ relief able to claim back 100% plus an additional amount in compensation for the employer’s portion of National Insurance contributions paid on SAP.

In addition, employers who need to can get funding in advance for payments of SAP from the Inland Revenue.

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