Employees who adopt are entitled to adoption leave and adoption pay. However, the legislation does not grant these rights to employees who adopt having previously been the child's foster parents or to step-parents who adopt their partners child(ren).

An adoption takes effect (and the rights are generated by) a registered Adoption Agency confirming an adoption date on a 'Matching Certificate' (MC) and the name of the 'main parent'. The week that adoption takes place is called the 'Matching Week' (MW) and adoptive parents are termed either 'main' parent or 'other' parent. Adoption rights are available to single sex couples.

Ordinary adoption leave (OAL) is the first 26 weeks leave. Additional adoption leave (AAL) is a second period of 26 weeks leave.

Married couples, male and female couples, and single sex partners can adopt and become eligible for benefit but to qualify they need to have worked for their employer for 26 weeks by the end of the Matching Week.

The main parent must give their employer 28 days notice of the date on which (s)he wishes his/her adoption leave to commence - and this must be within seven days of the issue of the MC.

The other parent must give their employer 15 weeks notice of their wish to take their leave entitlement which is Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) and must (if they are to receive the benefits) sign a Declaration (SC4 available from the Inland Revenue) which includes:

the expected date of adoption;

the date (s)he wishes the adoption leave and pay to start;

that (s)he is in an enduring family relationship with the mother/main parent; and/or

that (s)he will be responsible for the child's upbringing; and

that (s)he will be taking the leave to support the mother/main parent and care for the child.

The form requires the claimant's national insurance number. Only those who have earnings over an 8 week average that at least match the lower earnings level are entitled to pay during the leave. To be able to claim, neither parent must be in prison.

The Rights
The 'main' parent is entitled to both the two leaves - OAL and AAL - making a total absence of 52 weeks. If (s)he wishes to return before the end of either leave, 28 days notice must be given.

The 'other' parent is entitled to 1 or 2 weeks leave (as for 'paternity' leave) which must be taken within 56 days of the adoption.

Adoption Pay (AP)
Payment for the first set of 26 weeks leave for the main parent is at the rate of 90% of the persons average earnings or £102.80 (April 2004) whichever is the lower.

There is no payment for the second period of 26 weeks.

Payment for the other parent's leave is at the rate of 90% of average earnings or £102.80 (April 2004) whichever is less.

Once the main parent has notified their Matching Week, the employer must confirm the date of leave and the date of return.


92% of adoptive leave payments are recoverable by 'large' employers by deduction from their NI contributions. A 'large' employer is regarded as any employer whose total National Insurance liability for the previous tax year was £45,000 (April 2004) or more. Other, 'small', employers can reclaim the whole amount plus a 4.5% 'admin' charge. If a small employer would find it difficult to fund the AP they can apply for an advance.

Multiple Adoptions
Adoptive leave is available only on a single basis - if two or more children are adopted, only one set of leaves/pay is available for each parent.