Adoption leave and pay - Section 35

Carer with children

Adoption leave – Section 35 

All employees are entitled to take 52 weeks adoption leave. This is made up of: 

  • 26 weeks of ordinary Adoption Leave (OAL) and: 
  • 26 weeks of additional Adoption Leave (AAL) beginning the day after OAL 

Some of the key points 

  • Only 1 person in a couple can take adoption leave. The other partner could get Occupational Maternity Support (Paternity) Leave instead

NHS Occupational Adoption Pay

  • To qualify for Occupational Adoption Pay the employee must be newly matched with a child for adoption by an approved adoption agency.


  • Employees must have 12 months continuous NHS service ending with the week in which they are notified of being matched with the child for adoption. This will cover the circumstances where employees are newly matched with the child by an adoption agency. 

Occupational Adoption pay will be made up of: 

 8 weeks  Full Pay
 18 weeks  Half Pay
 Remaining 26 weeks  Remaining 26 weeks Unpaid Leave 

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)


  • To qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay an employee has to have 26 weeks of continuous service with one employer (current) by the week the employee is matched with the child by the adoption agency. 
  • Give the correct notice
  • Give proof of the adoption if asked by the employer

Statutory Adoption pay will be made up of: 

 39 weeks Flat rate SAP or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower
 Remaining 13 weeks  Unpaid Leave
  • Employees who do not qualify for SAP whether due to the continuous employment rule or because of another aspect of eligibility, may get support from their local Council instead. 

Statutory Adoption Pay and NHS Occupational Adoption Pay 

  • If an employee qualifies for SAP and NHS OAP this will be made up of: 
8 weeks  Full pay less any SAP receivable
18 weeks Half pay plus the flat rate of SAP (or average weekly earnings, whichever is lower) providing
the total does not exceed full pay
13 weeks Flat rate SAP (or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower) 13 weeks
13 weeks Unpaid leave 

This page should be read in conjunction with the Adoption Leave and Occupational Adoption Pay provisions which can be found in Section 35 of the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook

Further information:

If you are an employee, and have a query, please speak to your local HR team or your trade union representative.

Employers should send any queries

Other useful sources of information: 

Direct Gov 


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