Can adoptive parents take maternity or paternity leave?

Thousands of children are adopted every year in the UK but there are many more who need a home – which is why we are marking this important topic with a month-long series, Adoption Month.

In the UK, you must be aged 21 or over to adopt a child but there is no upper age limit and those who are single are allowed to adopt a child as well as couples who are married, in a civil partnership or living together.

According to CoramBAAF Adoption & Fostering Academy, in the year ending 31 March 2019, 88% of children were adopted in the UK by couples and 12% by single adopters.

Whether you adopt on your own or as part of a partnership, here is what you need to know about taking time off work for the adoption and the support available afterwards.

Can adoptive parents take maternity leave?

Instead of maternity leave, adoptive parents in the UK can be eligible for something called statutory adoption leave and statutory adoption pay.

Statutory adoption leave can be taken for up to 52 weeks – which is the same amount of time allowed for maternity leave.

Statutory adoption pay starts on the first day of statutory adoption leave and is paid for up to 39 weeks.

The pay consists of 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks.

After that, you are entitled to 33 weeks getting £151.20 a week or 90% of your average weekly pay – whichever is lower.

According to regulations set out by the Government, an adoptive parent can take adoption leave:

  • Up to 14 days before the date the child starts living with you (UK adoptions)
  • When the child arrives in the UK or within 28 days of this date (overseas adoptions)
  • The day the child’s born or the day after (if you’ve used a surrogate to have a child)

In order to be eligible for statutory adoption leave in the UK, the parent applying must be an employee, have legal proof of the adoption and apply for the leave within seven days of being matched with a child.

When taking statutory adoption leave, employees are still entitled to pay rises and the ability to accrue holiday.

To be eligible for statutory adoption pay in the UK an employee must have been with the company for at least 26 weeks before being matched with their child and earn an average of £120 a week before tax.

You will not be eligible for statutory adoption leave or pay if the child you are adopting is a stepchild or family member, or if the adoption has been arranged privately and not through the state.

For more information on how to claim either Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay, visit

Can adoptive parents take paternity leave?

Only one person per couple can take adoption leave but the other partner could get paternity leave instead.

Anyone who is having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement can be eligible for up to two weeks of paternity leave and paternity pay.

The rules for paternity leave and pay in the UK are the same whether your partner is pregnant or whether you and your partner are adopting.

Can adoptive parents take Shared Parental Leave?

Parents who are adopting in the UK may also be eligible to take Shared Parental Leave and Pay (SLP). This is where both parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.

To be eligible for SLP when adopting you must be able to prove that both parents will have shared responsibility for the child and both parents must meet all of the criteria regarding earnings and time spent in their current job.

Both parents must meet the following criteria if they want to take SPL:

  • Have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date
  • Stay with the same employer while you take SPL
  • Each earn on average at least £120 a week

Find the full eligibility criteria on

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