Maternity Protection Act 1994-2004
The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave i.e. 26 weeks, from employment extends to all female employees in Ireland (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organization or the number of hours worked per week, if you become pregnant while in employment in Ireland.
Notice to Employer to take Maternity Leave
- You must give your employer at least 4 weeks’ written notice of your intention to take maternity leave, as well as providing your employer with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy.
- Early birth: If your baby is born more than 4 weeks before your due date, you will have fulfilled the notice requirements if you give your employer written notice within 14 days of the birth
Payment during maternity leave
- Your entitlement to pay and superannuation during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment.
- Employers are not obliged to pay women on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit if you have sufficient PRSI contributions.
Additional maternity leave
- From 1 March 2007 workers are also entitled to take up to a further 16 weeks additional maternity leave. This period is not covered by Maternity Benefit, nor is your employer obliged to make any payment during this period. If you intend to take the additional 16 weeks’ maternity leave you must provide your employer with at least 4 weeks’ written notice. This notice may be given at the same time as the initial maternity leave notice.
If you are ill while you are on additional maternity leave
- 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 will be treated as being on sick leave and you may be entitled to illness benefit.
Public holidays and annual leave
- You are entitled to leave for any public holidays that occur during your maternity leave (including additional maternity leave). Time spent on maternity leave (including additional maternity leave) is treated as though you have been in employment This leave-time can also be used to accumulate annual leave entitlement.
Stillbirths and miscarriages
- If you have a still-birth or miscarriage any time after the 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to full maternity leave. To apply for Maternity Benefit following a stillbirth, you need to send a letter from your doctor with the Maternity Benefit application form, confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
Payment is subject to PRSI requirements
Health and safety leave
- An employer should carry out separate risk assessments in relation to pregnant employees and those who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. If there are particular risks, these should be either removed or the employee moved away from them. If the risk cannot be eliminated, Health and Safety leave should be given.
- During health and safety leave, employers must pay employees their normal wages for the first 3 weeks, after which health and safety benefit may be paid.
Father’s entitlement to maternity leave
- 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.
Postponing maternity leave
- Section 7 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 provides for postponement of maternity leave in strict circumstances, that is, if your baby is hospitalized, however, your employer can refuse your application to postpone your maternity leave
Returning to work
- You are entitled to return to work to the same job with the same contract of employment, however, if it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to allow you to return to your job, then they must provide you with suitable alternative work.
- Your employment conditions cannot be worsened by the fact that you have taken maternity leave, and if pay or other conditions have improved while you have been on maternity leave then you are entitled to these benefits when you return to work.
- 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 e.g. appointment card, confirming the pregnancy, giving 2 weeks’ notice of your medical visits. 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.
Returning to work
- You must give your employer at least 4 weeks’ written notice of your intention to return to work
- It is important to comply with these notice requirements, as failure to do so may cause loss of rights.
- You must notify your employer as soon as possible if you wish to postpone your maternity leave (but remember, your employer can refuse this application).