Maternity Benefits - What To Do
As soon as your doctor confirms your pregnancy, finding out about your current maternity rights is an important step to take as you prepare for motherhood. The Citizen’s Information Board is the best place to find this information.
If you wish to take maternity leave, it’s your legal right to do so regardless of how many hours you work per week or the duration of time you have been working for your employer. You should make your request for maternity leave known to your employer in writing as soon as possible. The terms of your own contract of employment will dictate whether you are entitled to payment on maternity leave as employers are under no obligation to pay you during your leave. You could still meet the criteria to qualify for Maternity Benefit - a Department Of Social Protection (DSP) payment- if you have accrued enough PRSI contributions. Your contract may provide for additional rights to payment during your maternity leave, so you could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit you are owed.
Am I Eligible For Maternity Benefit?
● You must have at least 39 weeks PRSI paid in the 12-month period before the first day your maternity leave begins. OR at least 39 weeks PRSI paid since taking up work and at least 39 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the relevant tax year or the year after that. It’s best to apply for maternity benefit at least 6 weeks before you are due to commence your Maternity Leave.
● The weekly rate for Maternity Benefit currently stands at €230.
● You can claim Maternity Benefit for the 26 weeks of Maternity Leave, and it will be taxed. You won’t have to pay PRSI or USC.
● You may be entitled to Maternity Benefit at half the rate if you are also claiming One-Parent-Family payment and meet the contribution conditions.
● If you are self-employed you must be in insurable employment (earning over €5000 in a tax year) and have 52 weeks PRSI paid at Class S in the tax year that is relevant to you. You might need to submit your accounts to prove this status.
- You should still submit to claim Maternity Benefit even if you are unsure to get your entitlement checked. If your due date is within 16 weeks of the start of the benefit year, your contributions from the previous year may be used to meet the condition to claim Maternity Benefit.
- You might also qualify if you earn over €5000 when you return to work after maternity leave.
- If you don’t meet these criteria and were in insurable employment before becoming self-employed you can use your A, E and H PRSI contributions to qualify.
● You’re entitled to 16 extra weeks of unpaid maternity leave which must be taken as soon as the period of Maternity Benefit ends. You will be entitled to a credited social insurance contribution up to a maximum of 16 during this time.
● You are not entitled to more maternity leave after this point unless you can come to an agreement with your employer, but you may be entitled to another 14 weeks of unpaid parental leave before your child turns 8.
● You are entitled to any leave for any public holidays during the entire maternity leave period (paid and unpaid).
● If your baby is born before your maternity leave officially commences you should send a letter from your doctor to the Maternity Benefit offices of the DSP, confirming your baby was born prematurely.
● The Maternity Protection Act 2004 (S7) has provisions for the postponement of maternity leave if your baby is hospitalised, but your employer has the right to refuse postponement applications. You may only ask for postponement when you have taken at least 14 weeks maternity leave, 4 or which must be after the baby’s birth.
● If you return to work following postponement you can take your leave in one chunk no later than one week after your baby is discharged from hospital. Your employer may look for confirmation of discharge dates from the hospital.
● Notify the DSP if you postpone your maternity leave.
If you unfortunately have a stillbirth any time after your 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to full maternity leave. If you satisfy the PRSI requirements that means you can still claim Maternity Benefit. To apply for this following a stillbirth, you need to send a letter from your doctor with the application form confirming a stillbirth occurred.
The father is entitled to maternity leave if the mother dies within 40 weeks of the child’s birth.
The period of leave granted depends on the mother’s date of death. If the mother dies within 24 weeks, additional maternity leave rights are granted to the father. If the mother’s death occurs thereafter up to 40 weeks, he is entitled to leave until 40 weeks after the baby is born. This begins 7 days after the mother’s death.
Back to Work
You are entitled to return to the same job with the same employment contract following your maternity leave under the Maternity Protection Act of 1994 (S27). If it impractical for your employer to allow you to return, they must provide suitable alternative work for you. The terms should be as favourable as those of your previous job.
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