Are you expecting or planning a family? There are lots of exciting times ahead, but applying for maternity leave can be daunting, so we’ve put together a quick guide to Maternity Leave in Ireland to answer your questions. Let’s get the paperwork out of the way so you can get on to the fun stuff!
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There are a lot of questions surrounding maternity leave – how and when do you apply, how do you inform your employer, how much maternity benefit will be paid, and how long can you take off from work? Read on for answers to all your questions about maternity leave in Ireland.
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Maternity Leave in Ireland
What Is Maternity Leave?
Maternity leave is a period of absence from work given to an expectant mother before and after she gives birth. Maternity leave in Ireland entitles all eligible women to 42 weeks off work before and after pregnancy, with the first 26 weeks paid.
Women must start their maternity leave at least two weeks before their expected due date, and they must take at least four weeks off after delivery. Maternity leave can start at any point from when a woman is 24 weeks pregnant.
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What is Maternity Benefit?
Maternity Benefit is a payment made to any women on maternity leave from work, and in Ireland it is covered by your PRSI.
Statutory maternity leave in Ireland is 42 weeks, with paid leave for the first 26 weeks. The final 16 weeks do not have to be paid, but are still legislated for job security and entitlements.
Who Is Entitled To Maternity Benefit?
Maternity benefit is paid to women who have paid PRSI contributions on their social insurance record. Women must be in insurable employment up to the day their maternity leave begins.
The final day of work before maternity leave starts can be within 16 weeks before your baby is due, which is from 24 weeks’ pregnant.
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How Much Is Maternity Benefit?
Since March 2018, the standard rate payable for maternity benefit in Ireland is €240 per week, for both employees and self-employed.
Some employers may decide to supplement maternity payment for their employees, however rates of pay can vary and, in those instances, will be specified in your individual employment contract.
Where & When Can I Apply For Maternity Benefit?
To apply for Maternity Benefit, you simply fill in an application form at least six weeks prior to when you intend to go on maternity leave (or 12 weeks prior if you are self-employed).
The form can be printed off, ordered from Maternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection, or you can pick one up in your nearest Citizens Information Centre.
How Do I Collect My Maternity Benefit Payment?
There are two options when it comes to collecting your maternity benefit payment. You can opt to have it paid directly into your bank account or alternatively, in the instance of an employer topping up your benefit, you can opt to have it paid directly into your employer’s bank account.
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What Happens If My Baby is Stillborn or I Miscarry?
In Ireland, if you have a stillbirth or miscarriage from the start of the 25th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to the full 26 weeks paid maternity leave once you have passed all PRSI requirements. Applications for Maternity Benefit following a stillbirth need a letter from your doctor confirming the number of weeks pregnant, the expected due date and the date of birth.
Maternity Leave and Your Employer
How and When Should I Tell My Boss?
Under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994, it states that an employee must inform her employer in writing of the intention to take maternity leave and must have a doctor’s certificate confirming the expected due date.
There is no exact timeframe of when you should tell your employer of your pregnancy. Most women will tell their boss in the second trimester (weeks 13 to 20), however the only stipulation is that employees must give at least four weeks’ written notice when taking maternity leave, when taking additional maternity leave, and when signifying their return to work.
Maternity benefit forms must be filled in by your employer and sent off no later than six weeks prior to when you intend to go on maternity leave.
Will My Job Be Protected?
The Maternity Protection Acts of 1994 and 2004 protect every women’s statutory and contractual rights. While you are on maternity leave, you remain in the employment of your employer. The Act protects you against termination of employment during maternity leave, and also prohibits dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy.
You are also legally entitled to reasonable time off for medical visits connected to your pregnancy. In short, you can not be discriminated against for being pregnant, or for being on maternity leave.
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What Will Happen When I Return To Work?
Under Section 26 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994, you are entitled to return to work after maternity leave to the exact same job with the same contract of employment.
However, under Section 27 of the Act, if it is not possible for your employer to allow you to return to your original position, they must provide you with an alternative role. This position should not be less favourable than your original job before taking maternity leave.
While you are on maternity leave, you are also entitled to be treated as if you have been in the workplace. So, for example, if pay or working conditions have improved while you were on maternity leave, you are also entitled to these benefits upon your return.
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Am I Entitled To Public and Annual Holidays?
There are nine public holidays in Ireland each year. An employee is entitled to a paid day off on the holiday, or a paid day off that month, or an extra day’s annual leave, or an extra day’s pay. Employees are also entitled to take annual holidays while on maternity leave, so you can add these on when calculating your return date to work.
Similarly, you continue to accrue annual holidays while on maternity leave.
What If I am Breastfeeding When I Return To Work?
You will need to notify your employer in writing of your intention to breastfeed at work at least four weeks before the date you will return.
Under the Maternity Protection Act 2004, some women in employment who are breastfeeding are entitled to take time off work to breastfeed, without any loss of pay, for up to 26 weeks after birth. This law applies to all women in employment who have given birth within 6 months.
Women can breastfeed, or express milk, in the workplace if facilities are provided. However, employers are not obliged to provide a specific room for breastfeeding.
Alternatively, breastfeeding mothers can have their work hours reduced without loss of pay to facilitate breastfeeding if facilities are not made available in the workplace.
Breastfeeding employees are entitled to take one paid hour off each day to breastfeed. This can be one 60-minute break, two 30-minute breaks, or three 20-minute breaks. Additional time may be given if your employer agrees.
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Paternity Leave in Ireland
And while we’re at it, what about the dads? Dads are now entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave in Ireland since September 2016.
Paternity Benefit is a payment available for both employed and self-employed dads who wish to take time off when their partner has had a baby or if they have adopted a child. It is covered by PRSI and can be used any time within the first six months following the birth or adoption.
Dads who which to avail of paternity leave should apply four weeks before they intend to go on paternity leave. If you are self-employed, apply 12 weeks in advance.
As of March 2018, paternity leave is €240 per week – however, if dad is receiving certain social welfare payments, it may be halved. Paternity benefit is paid directly into your bank account, or you can opt to have it directly paid to your employer’s bank account if they are going to top up the payment at all.
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Have you applied for maternity leave in Ireland? Tell us your experiences of working and maternity leave – just leave a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you!