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Blog  »  June 2016  »  Protected Leave - Maternity Leave - Blog
Jun 16

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Protected Leave - Maternity Leave

In this article we look at Maternity Leave in Ireland, continuing with our series of blogs on Protected Leave.

The Maternity Protection Acts 1994-2004 govern maternity leave, which comprises of 26 weeks paid benefit from the Department of Social Protection, provided the employee has made the required number of PRSI contributions. It also allows for a further optional 16 weeks extension of maternity which is unpaid.

There is no obligation on an employer to pay an employee whilst they are on maternity leave, but at their own discretion employers may pay additional Maternity Pay. It is advisable to include any details regarding payment or non-payment while on Maternity Leave in detail in a Maternity Leave/Pay section in the company handbook.

Under the legislation at least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of the baby's expected birth and at least 4 weeks after. Generally, employees take 2 weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after. If the employee qualifies 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.

From an EU comparison, in terms of duration, our maternity leave is relatively long with a total of 42 weeks leave, however with 26 paid at only 230e and the rest unpaid we are the only country in the EU with no period of Well-Paid Leave (well-paid is defined as at least 2/3’s of a salary).

Managing Maternity in the Workplace

Employees are obliged to inform their employer about a pregnancy as soon as possible. To ensure a healthy and safe work environment for a pregnant employee, employers should ensure to have pregnancy risk assessment included as part of their health and safety assessment.

During the employee’s pregnancy she will be entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments.

The employee will fill out a Form MB10 and the employer will be requested to sign and stamp it so the employee can apply for payment of Maternity benefit from the Dept. of Social Protection. If the employee chooses to take the additional 16 weeks unpaid Maternity Leave the employer must complete an “Application for maternity leave credits” form and send to the department.

Maternity leave is classed as Protective Leave, as such women on maternity leave will be entitled to:

  • their full annual leave entitlement
  • any bank holidays that fall during their maternity leave
  • the right to return to work

Being listed as a protected characteristic, incorrect management of pregnancy and maternity leave could leave employers open to discrimination claims. To ensure your business is managing maternity correctly, employers are advised to have a clear maternity leave policy in place.

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