Everything You Need To Know About Maternity Leave in Ireland
When deciding to try for a baby, maternity benefit can be a huge factor in a couple’s decision. How to financially support a new addition to the family can be a cause of stress for most new parents. So, it is important to be informed on all of the facts as early as possible, so you know where you stand if and when you decide to embark on this new adventure!
As laid out by the Citizens’ Information Board the basic facts around maternity leave in Ireland are the following:
Who is entitled to maternity benefit?
If you become pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment extends to all female employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. You can also avail of additional unpaid maternity leave.
How much maternity benefit am I entitled to?
You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks' additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave. Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, at least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby's expected birth and at least 4 weeks after. You can decide how you would like to take the remaining weeks. Generally, employees take 2 weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after. If you qualify for Maternity Benefit, at least 2 and no more than 16 weeks must be taken before the end of the week the baby is due.
Can I take additional maternity leave?
You are also entitled to take up to a further 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of your maternity leave. This period is not covered by Maternity Benefit, nor is your employer obliged, unless otherwise agreed, to make any payment during this period. If you become ill while you are on additional maternity leave you may ask your employer if you may end the additional maternity leave. If your employer agrees you will not be entitled to the remainder of the maternity leave, but you will be treated as being on sick leave and you may be entitled to Illness Benefit.
What if I am self-employed?
The PRSI contributions can be from both employment or self-employment - the PRSI classes that count for Maternity Benefit so if you are self-employed you must be in insurable employment and have:
52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2014, the relevant tax year is 2012.
52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2014, the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year is 2011.
52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2014, the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year is 2013.
Your entitlement to pay during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you have sufficient PRSI contributions. However, an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable. Reports show, however, only approx. 60% of employers make up the difference. The minimum rate of pay during maternity leave is €235 per week.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, you may take reasonable time off for medical visits connected with the pregnancy. There is no maximum or minimum amount of time off specified for these visits. Rather, you are entitled to as much time off as is necessary to attend each visit. This includes the time required to travel to and from the appointment and the time taken for the appointment itself.
You will need to provide your employer with medical evidence confirming the pregnancy, giving 2 weeks’ notice of your medical visits. You should show your appointment card if requested by your employer at any time after your first appointment. You may also take time off for medical visits after the birth for up to 14 weeks following the birth. You are entitled to be paid while keeping these medical appointments, both before and after the birth.
You may also be entitled to take paid time off to attend some ante-natal classes. Your entitlement is for one set of ante-natal classes except for the last 3 classes of the set. Fathers are entitled to paid time off to attend the last 2 classes in the set of ante-natal classes.
Fathers are entitled to maternity leave if the mother dies within 40 weeks of the birth. In these circumstances, the father is entitled to a period of leave, the extent of which depends on the actual date of the mother’s death. If the mother dies within 24 weeks of the birth he has an optional right to the additional maternity leave. If the mother's death is over 24 weeks after the birth, the father is entitled to leave until 40 weeks after the birth. The leave starts within 7 days of the mother's death.
New parents (other than the mother of the child) can get 2 weeks’ statutory paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child on or after 1 September 2016.
How to apply?
You just have to fill in a Maternity Benefit application form six weeks (12 weeks for self-employed mums) before you intend to go on maternity leave and send it to Maternity Benefit Section, Department of Social Protection, McCarter's Road, Buncrana, Donegal.
If there is a dispute?
If you have a dispute with your employer about maternity leave or if you have been dismissed due to a matter connected with your pregnancy or for claiming your rights under maternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on www.workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.
Written by Laura Doyle staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.lovelifeandlittleones.com.