Maternity Leave & Maternity Benefit Explained

Last Updated on June 13, 2023

Maternity Leave 2023

When you prepare to become a mum, there are plenty of changes coming into your life. Getting your employment situation figured out can be stressful but when you know your rights, you are already one step ahead in preparation for life with a new baby. There are various options for parents leave in Ireland. Maternity leave is the longest paid leave available in Ireland. It has to be taken during pregnancy and the first few weeks of a newborns life. For fathers, there is a two week paid paternity leave available to spend those precious first few weeks with their newborn. In the graphic below it shows how many weeks you can take with each different type of leave for parents.

Here is an easy overview of your maternity rights explained and, all important questions regarding maternity pay and extended maternity leave answered.

How long is maternity leave in Ireland? 

Maternity leave in Ireland is paid for 26 weeks and unpaid for an additional 16 weeks. 
You must start your maternity leave at least 2 weeks before your baby is due. It is also required to stay on maternity leave for at least 4 weeks after the baby is born. Altogether you can take up to 42 weeks of maternity leave. 
If you would normally be off work for bank holidays/public holidays these days get added up while you are on maternity leave so you can take time off at another time in the year. 

Who is entitled to maternity leave?

It is each employed woman’s right in Ireland to take 26 weeks of paid maternity leave and 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave. This is independent of how long you have been working for your current employer. The purpose of maternity leave is for new mothers to have their job secured for the period of absence due to pregnancy. Whether you are self-employed, a casual worker or working part-time, as a female pregnant worker you are entitled to maternity leave. 

How do I apply for maternity leave? 

To apply for maternity leave to your employer you need: 
1. A written notice to your employer, submitted 4 weeks minimum prior to your leave
2. A medical certificate confirming your pregnancy

To apply for the 16 weeks extended maternity leave you have to give at least 4 weeks written notice to your employer before you are due to return to work or you can hand in the written notice for extended maternity leave at the same as the maternity leave letter. 

How do I extend maternity leave? 

If you decide to extend your maternity leave from 26 weeks for additional 16 weeks you should inform your employer as early as possible. The additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave must be taken immediately after the 26 weeks paid maternity leave. Your employer has to fill in an application for maternity credits to ensure your PRSI contributions are continued when you are on unpaid leave.

Other options to extend maternity leave are to take parents leave, which is a 2-week paid leave or parental leave which is up to 26 weeks unpaid leave. 
You can also propose to your employer a phased return to work with reduced hours.

How much is Maternity Benefit in Ireland?

The weekly Maternity Benefit payment in 2021 is €245. Maternity Benefit is paid by social welfare for 26 weeks and gets paid into your bank account.
Some employers may choose to pay you on top of your state maternity pay, however, they have no obligation to do so.
If you choose to return to work before your 26 weeks maternity leave is up, you have to inform the Department of Social Protection to cease your maternity benefit. If you choose to extend your maternity leave by the additional 16 weeks there is no paid maternity benefit. 

How do I qualify for Maternity Benefit?

To qualify for maternity benefit you have to have enough PRSI contributions. PRSI is being automatically paid by your employer. You have to have paid 39 weeks of PRSI in the last 12 months or have paid 39 weeks of PRSI in the relevant tax year. There are multiple options to qualify, if you are unsure whether you are eligible, go to citizens information or request a PRSI contribution statement

How do I apply for Maternity Benefit?

To apply for Maternity Benefit you need to fill in an online maternity benefit form providing details about your employment and personal data such as your current address. You should submit your application at least six weeks before you plan on starting maternity leave. Your employer needs to fill in an MB2 form or if you are self-employed your doctor has to fill in an MB3 form. You can submit all documents online or by post. 

What do I do if I get sick during pregnancy or I cannot continue to work due to pregnancy complications? 

If you get sick during pregnancy you can take sick leave under the conditions outlined in your employment contract. You can take sick leave before your maternity leave is due to start, it will not affect your maternity leave. Additionally, you might qualify for Illness Benefit which is calculated depending on your PRSI contributions. 
Your doctor might issue a medical certificate to start your maternity leave at an earlier time than planned. Your maternity leave will start at the time stated in the medical certificate which you need to forward to your employer. 

Can I take time off for medical visits during pregnancy?

Yes, you can take paid time off for going to the doctor when you are pregnant. You can take time off for the duration of the appointment and the time needed for travel to and from the appointment. You are also entitled to have paid time off to attend antenatal classes if you have not attended them before. Fathers are entitled to take paid time off to attend the last 2 antenatal classes prior to birth. You are also entitled to take paid time off for medical visits up to 14 weeks after giving birth. 
To attend these appointments, you need to provide your employer with a doctors’ confirmation of your pregnancy and a two weeks’ notice of your upcoming medical visit(s). After your visit, your employer has the right to request to see proof of your attendance of the medical visit such as an appointment card. 

What if my work environment is not suitable for me to work while I am pregnant?

Your employer has to carry out a risk assessment to ensure your working conditions are safe for your circumstances. These risk assessments should be carried out for pregnancy, return to work after recently given birth and breastfeeding circumstances. Risks for your health and safety should be removed or you should be moved to a suitable position. If this is deemed not possible, your employer should give you health and safety leave from work

What can I do if the baby is premature?

If your baby is born prematurely it does not affect your right to maternity leave. If you have not started your maternity leave at the time of birth, you have to provide your employer in writing that you have given birth within 14 days after the birth. Your maternity leave would start in this case from the day you have given birth onwards.

What are the regulations for stillbirths and miscarriages?

You are entitled to your full maternity leave as well as Maternity Benefit if you suffer a stillbirth or miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy. 

Are gay male parents entitled to maternity leave in Ireland? 

Gay male parents are entitled to adoptive leave, a 24 week paid leave which one parent is entitled to.

Can I quit my job after maternity leave?

Yes, to quit your job after maternity leave. You have to give your employer notice as outlined in your contract. Which means if you do not plan on returning to work after your maternity leave has finished you have to give notice prior to the end of your maternity leave. 

What can I do if I am in dispute with my employer due to maternity leave?

If you are in conflict with your employer about maternity leave or unfair dismissal you have to file a complaint within 6 months of the conflict arising. There is an online complaint form on Depending on the case, the Workplace Relations Commission is going to offer mediation services or refer the case to an Adjudication Officer if mediation is not possible.

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