Adoption Leave and Pay

Employed adopters are usually entitled to adoption leave and may be entitled to adoption pay, which is a legal right. Some employers may offer a more generous scheme than the statutory one, but they cannot offer less than the statutory amounts.

Statutory Adoption Leave

Adopters who are employed (or one of a couple) may be entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory adoption leave.

Adoption leave can start either:

  • From the day a child starts to live with the adopter, or
  • Up to 14 days before the child starts living with them

Adoption leave is a ‘day one’ right, which means there is no qualifying period in employment. Employers need proof of adoption; this is usually the matching certificate which must be from a UK adoption agency, or the written notification of a fostering for adoption placement.

The correct notice must be given. A prospective adopter should inform their employer within seven days of being notified that they are matched with a child or expecting a fostering for adoption placement. If this is not possible, the employer should be informed as soon as possible.

Adopters can return to their previous job if they take up to 26 weeks’ adoption leave. They must be offered a suitable alternative job if they return after 26 weeks, or at the end of 52 weeks’ leave.

Prospective adopters eligible for adoption leave who are matched with a child, are also entitled to time off on 5 occasions (main adopter) or 2 occasions (secondary adopter) for adoption appointments.

Statutory Adoption Pay

An adopter (one of a couple) who has worked for their employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the week they are matched with a child or notified of a fostering for adoption placement, may qualify for statutory adoption pay. This is 90% of earnings for the first 6 weeks, and £145.18 (2018-19) or 90% earnings, whichever is lower, for a further 33 weeks. To qualify they must earn at least £116 per week before tax (2018-19) and give the correct notice and evidence to the employer as for statutory adoption leave.

Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay

If adopting as a couple, the second adopter may be entitled to up to two weeks of statutory paternity leave and pay. Couples can choose which of them takes statutory adoption leave and which takes statutory paternity leave. To be eligible for statutory paternity leave, they must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 26 weeks and, for pay, must earn at least £116 per week before tax (2018-19).

Fostering for Adoption

Statutory adoption leave or paternity leave (and pay if eligible) can begin when a fostering for adoption placement is made. If an adopter chooses not to take adoption leave/paternity leave at this point, they may take leave at the point when the child is matched with them for adoption (which may be some months later). Adopters are eligible for only one set of adoption/paternity leave per placement.

Taking adoption leave at the later date (on matching) may affect statutory adoption pay. This is based on the final 8 weeks’ salary before taking leave, so a fostering for adoption carer who takes unpaid leave while fostering will be eligible for statutory adoption leave but not statutory adoption pay.

While fostering, a fostering for adoption carer will be entitled to fostering allowances & payments, which must be paid regardless of whether they receive adoption pay.

Shared Parental Leave

Shared parental leave is statutory leave for new parents, including adopters. There is a 26-week qualifying period in employment and the adopter or partner must be eligible for statutory adoption pay or paternity pay or meet the employment and earnings test. Adopters can choose to end their statutory adoption leave and pay early (after a minimum of two weeks) and share up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and 37 weeks of shared parental pay with their partner. See for more details.

If adoption leave is cut short

If a child is no longer placed, the adopter continues to be eligible for up to a further 8 weeks of statutory adoption leave and pay (unless leave/pay has already been used up) after which they would be expected to return to work. It is advisable to keep employers informed if this should happen.

Taking a second adoption leave

If a further child is placed for adoption during or shortly after an adoption leave and the prospective adopter is still employed, they are entitled to statutory adoption leave again. An employer cannot prevent adoption leave being taken.


Statutory adoption leave and pay only applies to people who are employed. Unfortunately there is no equivalent support for self-employed people who adopt.

Further Information

This page is intended as a brief guide and is not a comprehensive legal guide to adoption leave and pay.

For more information on Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay and how to claim, visit GOV.UK at

For information about Shared Parental Leave and Pay, visit GOV.UK at

Employees may want to ask their employer about arrangements for adoption leave and pay, as some employers have arrangements that are more generous than the statutory scheme.

Additionally, adopters can make a claim for child benefit from the time a child is placed for adoption with them (not if fostering) and if they receive an adoption allowance this won’t be treated as income and won’t prevent a child benefit claim. They can also make a claim for child tax credit (not if fostering), whether they qualify for this is also dependent on income, and any adoption allowances are not treated as income.