Adoption leave and pay

Adoption pay


Statutory Adoption Pay is paid for 39 weeks and usually covers the first 39 weeks of an employee's adoption leave.

There are different eligibility criteria for Statutory Adoption Pay for UK and overseas adoptions. See adoption pay and leave: eligibility.

Adoption pay and foster parents

In Northern Ireland, in exceptional cases, adoption pay may be payable where an adoption agency places a child with approved foster parents who are also approved prospective adopters. The adoption agency will supply the foster parents with correspondence which can be shown to the employer explaining that they have met the relevant criteria for being matched with the child for the purposes of adoption leave and pay, and other entitlements open to adopters. The usual notification and service criteria will apply.

Statutory Adoption Pay rates and recovery

For the first six weeks you must pay your employee Statutory Adoption Pay a weekly rate equal to 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings.

For the next 33 weeks you must pay them the lower of the following:

  • the standard weekly rate - £156.66
  • 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings

You can recover some or all of your Statutory Adoption Pay payments from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) - the proportion you can recover depends on the size of your annual National Insurance Contributions liability.

Enhanced adoption pay

If you wish, you can offer enhanced adoption pay arrangements to attract and retain employees. For example, you could:

  • pay more than Statutory Adoption Pay over a certain period, eg full pay for the first six weeks, half pay for the next ten weeks, Statutory Adoption Pay for the remaining 23 weeks
  • make a bonus payment on the employee's return to work

You could change the qualification criteria for these adoption pay enhancements, eg the employee needs a year's continuous service.

You can offer these enhanced adoption pay arrangements either as a contractual right or on a discretionary, case-by-case basis. When exercising discretion caution should be taken to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.

You can still recover from HMRC the Statutory Adoption Pay portion of any enhanced adoption pay.

See the Invest Northern Ireland Employers' Handbook guidance on adoption leave and pay (PDF, 48K).