If you are having a child via adoption or a surrogacy arrangement you are not eligible to the same rights as a pregnant person. Find out what you are eligible for here.

What’s the Difference Between Adoption and Maternity Leave?

Adoption rights have increased in the UK over the years. Now, those hoping to adopt can rest easy knowing they will be able to take time off or get some paid leave when they adopt their new child.

There are three options for a parent looking to adopt a child. You can take:

  • Statutory Adoption Leave
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay

See a detailed explanation of each option below, so you can decide which path is best for you.

Statutory Adoption Leave

If a couple are adopting a child, only one of the two partners can take Statutory Adoption Leave. The other partner is eligible for paternity leave, in which they can take up to two weeks leave.

Statutory Adoption Leave is similar to Statutory Maternity Leave in that it is made up of two parts: Ordinary Adoption Leave, making up the first 26 weeks; and Additional Adoption Leave, making up an optional extension of up to another 26 weeks.

Choosing Statutory Adoption Leave also makes you eligible for attending 5 adoption appointments between matching with your child and running up to the adoption date.

The dates for statutory adoption leave change depending on where the child is before adoption.

For example, for an adoption in which the child is already living in the UK, you can choose to commence adoption leave up to 14 days prior to the date the child starts living with you.

For an overseas adoption, adoption leave can begin from the day the child arrives in the UK or up to 28 days after this date.

If it is a surrogate adoption, the adoption leave must either start the day of the birth or the day after.

Your employer can deny you changing your return-to-work date if you do not give them at least 8 weeks’ notice. Also, it is your legal obligation to inform your employer of any changes to the start date of the child living with you, such as if the arrival from overseas is delayed.

Statutory Adoption Pay

Statutory Adoption Pay equates to 90% of your average weekly earnings for 6 weeks, followed by whichever is lower between £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings for the next 33 weeks.

As with a regular wage, Tax and National Insurance will be taken off of this amount.

You may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay alongside Statutory Adoption Leave. In this case, your pay would begin the week you started your leave.

If you are a freelancer, agency worker, on a zero hours contract or a contractor you may only be eligible for the Statutory Adoption Pay.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

Similar to a pregnant couple, you may be eligible to apply the Shared Parental Leave and Pay option. For more information on this, we have compiled the details in our parental leave guide.


Your employment rights are sustained whilst on leave for the adoption of your child. This means your employer cannot discriminate against you in any performance-related decisions due to your choice to adopt a child, go on Statutory Adoption Leave and/or take Statutory Adoption Pay.