You’re pregnant! Great news! But now you have to look after the practicals – and after you’ve organised your care, you need to think about work and how you will manage after baby is born. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, their employers don’t offer paid maternity/paternity leave, but you do have some rights, both in terms of leave and in terms of financial support, from the government.
Under current legislation, you have to give your employer at least four weeks’ written notice of your intention to take maternity leave along with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy. However, most women tell their employer after the 12-week mark has passed, and if you work in a job that may pose risk to your pregnancy or you have health worries, it’s a good idea to tell your employer in confidence as soon as you can. Your employer is legally obliged to conduct a pregnancy risk assessment and this can only be organised once you have formally notified them of your pregnancy.
You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave, with the option of a further 16 weeks’ unpaid leave, commencing no later than two weeks prior to your due date. If you find it too difficult to work during the final phase of your pregnancy, or your baby is born prematurely, you can commence your maternity leave up to 16 weeks prior to the end of the week the baby is due. Once your pregnancy is confirmed, you can take paid time off for medical visits associated with the pregnancy and antenatal classes, giving two weeks’ notice to your employer.
There is no legal obligation upon employers to pay you during maternity leave. Depending on your PRSI contributions, you may qualify for Maternity Benefit, which is issued by the Department of Social Protection and is standardised at €230 a week for the 26 weeks of maternity leave.
When returning to work, make sure to give your employer at least four weeks’ written notice of your intention to return to work from maternity leave. Upon your return, you should be back in the same job with the same contract of employment. In the event that your employer can’t allow you to return to your job, they must provide you with suitable alternative work.
New legislation introduced in 2016 gives new fathers statutory paternity leave of two weeks and paternity benefit of €230. These benefits apply to fathers whose children were born or adopted on or after September 1st 2016. Fathers that avail of paternity leave and benefit will be able to start the package at any time in the first six months of birth or adoption of a child.
To apply for Maternity/Paternity Benefit, contact the Maternity/Paternity Benefit section of the Department of Social Protection.
Tel: (01) 471 5898; Lo call: 1890 690 690;