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Adoption leave and pay: who is entitled and what you could get

Find out more about if you are entitled to adoption leave and pay rights, how much you qualify for, plus advice on telling your employer and what to do if you have any problems.

Who’s entitled to paid Statutory Adoption Leave?

To qualify for leave, you must:

  • be newly matched with a child by an adoption agency ('matched' means that the adoption agency gives you the details of the child they think is suitable for you to adopt)
  • have worked continuously for your current employer for at least 26 weeks before the beginning of the week when you’re matched with a child

To qualify for pay you must also:

  • earn more than the lower earnings limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions (currently £90 a week)

You must give your employer documentary proof, usually a matching certificate from your adoption agency, to show that you have the right to paid adoption leave. The adoption agency must be one which is properly recognised in UK law. You have no statutory rights if you arrange a private adoption.

If you are adopting a child you are fostering, you must be matched by a recognised agency to be eligible for adoption leave and pay. You must also fulfill the qualifying criteria by the date you receive notification of matching. The placement will begin when the child is placed with you for adoption. 

You won’t normally be able to get statutory adoption leave or pay if you are becoming a special guardian, adopting a stepchild or having a child through surrogacy or a private adoption agreement.

Other options

If you can’t get paid adoption leave, other options include taking paid holiday, an unpaid leave of absence or parental leave.

How much adoption leave you’ll get

Adopters who meet the employment conditions have the right to up to 26 weeks’ Ordinary Adoption Leave, followed by up to 26 weeks’ Additional Adoption Leave.

When can you start your leave?

You can start your leave:

  • from the date the child starts living with you, or
  • on an earlier date up to 14 days before the date you expect the child to start living with you

Your leave can start on any day of the week.

How much Statutory Adoption Pay you’ll get

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) begins at the same time as your adoption leave and (unless you finish your leave sooner) runs for 39 weeks .

If you qualify, you’ll get Statutory Adoption Pay of £117.18 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less. You’ll be paid by your employer in the same way as you get your normal wages, and you’ll pay tax and National Insurance contributions in the normal way.

If you don’t earn enough to qualify

If you meet the other conditions but earn less than the LEL for National Insurance contributions, you can still take unpaid adoption leave. You might get Income Support while on leave.

Telling your employer that you want to take adoption leave

You need to tell your employer that you want to take adoption leave within seven days of being told that you’ve been matched with a child for adoption. If it is not possible to tell your employer within seven days, you must tell them as soon as possible.

At the same time you must tell your employer:

  • when you expect the child to be placed with you
  • when you want your adoption leave to start

You can change the start date provided you give 28 days’ notice.

Your employer should tell you within 28 days of receiving your notice, the date on which your adoption leave will end. This will be 52 weeks after it starts. You can return earlier than this as long as you give your employer eight weeks notice of your return.

If you leave your job

If you qualify for SAP but leave your job for any reason – including being dismissed – you are still entitled to SAP. However, if you start work for a different employer you cannot receive SAP for any week in which you do work for the new employer.

If your contract ends before the SAP payments have begun, the SAP payments should start 14 days before the date of placement. If the contract ends during those 14 days, pay begins the day following the last day of work.

What to do if you have problems

If you have trouble getting what you’re entitled to, talk to your employer first of all. If you have an employee representative (eg a trade union official), they may be able to help.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to make a complaint using your employer’s internal grievance procedure.

If you’re still unhappy, you have the right to make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal

Where to get help

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) offer free, confidential and impartial advice on employment rights issues. You can call the Acas helpline on 08457 47 47 47 from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday.

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. You can contact the LRA on 028 9032 1442 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can also provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union, you will also be able to get advice and support from them.

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