Maternity rights: leave and pay entitlement
Parenting is a full-time job. Read about your maternity rights to see what you’re entitled to from work.
At a glance
Take up to 26 weeks off with statutory maternity leave – but you can have 16 additional weeks of unpaid leave
How much you get paid on maternity leave varies
Maternity leave can begin as early as 16 weeks before the end of the week your baby is due
You still accumulate annual leave and public holidays throughout leave
This article was written in July 2020 and information provided in it may be subject to change as maternity rights in Ireland evolve.
Before you get the additional job title of ‘mum’ it’s a good idea to take care of more official business. Just in case you’re wondering, you need to tell your employer at least four weeks before you’re due, in writing. Although you probably won’t be able to hide your bump under loose clothing that long anyway. If the baby comes before those final four weeks and you haven’t told your boss yet, you have 14 days from the birth to send them written notice.
Before you get to week 36 here’s a few things worth knowing about maternity leave and maternity pay to make sure you have everything under control before things get real.
Am I eligible for maternity pay?
To be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you need to:
- Have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions
- Give your employer adequate notice (more on this below)
- Proof of pregnancy - ask your doctor for a certificate that confirms when your baby is due. Give this certificate to your employer. Your employer will give you a MB2 certificate for maternity benefit. If you are self-employed you are provided with a MB3 certificate.
- Apply for maternity Benefit in the Maternity Benefit section of the DEASP, at least six weeks before your baby is due if you’re employed or 12 weeks before if you’re self-employed.
Put this one in your diary: Four weeks before starting your SMP, you need to give your employer:
- Written warning that you intend to start maternity leave.
- A letter from your doctor confirming your baby’s due date – this is so your employer can fill in an MB2 and give it to you. You’ll need this to apply for Maternity Benefit.
If your employer isn’t doing their part, you should take action:
- Talk to your employer and get a written explanation.
- Make a formal complaint or speak to your trade union or employees’ rep if you have one.
How long can I have off with baby?
From those who are new at work, to those who feel like part of the furniture, every new mum is entitled to at least 42 weeks with their baby. The only difference is pay – more on that later.
You don’t even have to wait until your baby is here. If you’d prefer to prepare and rest in the last weeks of pregnancy you can start your leave as early as 16 weeks before baby is due. Or you can keep working and go off two weeks before baby is set to arrive, leaving more time for cuddles.
You don’t have to take all 42 weeks. If you’re missing your job (or the pay) you can get back sooner. But the minimum time off is four weeks to recuperate, and you must give written notice four weeks before you intend to return.
What about my partner?
As the main caregiver you get up to 42 weeks, while your partner is entitled to two weeks paid leave. If you’ve adopted or used a surrogate, the nominated main caregiver can take up to 24 weeks’ paid leave, which can be followed by 16 weeks’ unpaid leave if desired. The secondary care giver can also take up to two weeks paid time off with their baby.
This applies for all parents, including if you have adopted or used a surrogate. Unless you choose to split your leave – more on that below.
What about getting paid?
What and how much you’re entitled to during maternity leave comes down to what’s in your contract. Employers are not obliged to pay women on maternity leave, but hopefully yours does. You may qualify for maternity benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you’ve made a certain amount of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. Check with your employer to see exactly what you’re entitled to.
Telling the boss
Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t have to say anything until your 36th week of pregnancy.
Whenever you’re planning on starting maternity leave just remember that your employer needs to have four weeks’ written notice. Oh, and unfortunately your bump isn’t evidence enough, you actually have to prove your pregnancy with medical forms and appointment letters.
Once you’ve shared your big news with your boss, you can take reasonable time off for medical visits connected to your pregnancy. There’s no rule in regards to how many appointments you can attend – you’re entitled to as much time off as is needed. This includes the time it takes to travel to and from your appointments and the appointment itself.
Try and hold onto any medical evidence in regards to your appointments and where possible give two weeks’ notice of your medical visits. Your employer may request to see your appointment cards. Once baby is here you may need to make further medical visits and you’re entitled to do so 14 weeks following the birth. You’re also entitled to pay during any of the medical appointments you take in this time.
Staying safe at work
It’s understandable if you’re not ready to tell the boss right away, but just so you know, the sooner you do say something the sooner your safety and wellbeing will be taken care of. Your employer needs to carry out risk assessments for pregnant employees, those who’ve recently given birth or those who are breastfeeding. If there are risks you will need to be either removed or moved away from them. If this isn’t possible then you’re entitled to ‘health and safety leave’. This could be a temporary fix or it could last right up to your maternity leave. During health and safety leave you should be paid normally for the first three weeks as set out in the Maternity Protection (Health and Safety Leave Renumeration) Regulations, SI 20/1995. After this period ‘Health and Safety Benefit’ may be paid. For more information on this take a look here.
If it’s not possible to make changes to the day-to-day tasks within your role then your employer will need to offer you a different position with the same pay.
My rights while I’m away
While you’re on maternity leave you have the exact same employment rights as before. Which means you can build up holiday pay and you’re not excluded from pay rises.
In case you’re worried, employers aren’t allowed to use pregnancy as an excuse to make you redundant. So that should set your mind at ease while you’re off.
For babies that were born prematurely, maternity leave is extended beyond the end of the normal 26-week period. This extra time is to cover the period between your baby’s premature birth date and the date you’d originally expected to start maternity leave. Yes, you’ll still be paid Maternity Benefit for this extra time.
As an example, let’s say your little one arrives in week 30:
Initially you’d planned to start maternity leave and claim Maternity Benefit at week 37 of your pregnancy. This gave you two weeks of preparation (and hopefully relaxation), before the end of the week when your baby was due.
Instead, your keen little bundle decided to arrive in week 30 of your pregnancy ¬– a whole seven weeks before you planned to take your leave and benefits. Under the new rules you still claim maternity leave for the standard 26 weeks from the date of birth, but also an extra seven weeks at the end of the 26 weeks. It means your maternity leave and Maternity Benefit will last until your baby is 33 weeks old to take account of those extra seven weeks of parenting you hadn’t bargained for.