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February 2, 2024

Maternity Leave Ireland: A Brief Guide for Expectant Mothers

Ireland's maternity leave provides paid time off for pregnant employees before and after childbirth. Explore its eligibility criteria, duration, payments, and more.

Aine Kavanagh

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Aine Kavanagh

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Maternity leave in Ireland allows pregnant employees to take paid time off work before and after childbirth, supporting them during the prenatal and postnatal periods.

You can get up to 42 weeks of maternity leave, which is split into:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave: Paid leave for the first 26 consecutive weeks.

  • Additional Maternity Leave: An additional 16 consecutive weeks of unpaid maternity leave, starting immediately after your Ordinary Maternity Leave ends.

Read on for a detailed understanding of maternity leave in Ireland.

Further Reading

Who Can Apply for a Maternity Leave in Ireland?

Maternity leave in Ireland is available to all pregnant employees as guaranteed by the Maternity Protection Act 1994 and the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004.

If you’re pregnant, you can take maternity leave regardless of your length of service or weekly working hours. This covers:

  • Employed workers

  • Self-employed individuals

  • Casual and part-time workers

How Much Maternity Leave Are You Entitled to in Ireland?

In Ireland, you're entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave, along with the option of taking an additional unpaid maternity leave of 16 weeks.

You must take at least two weeks of your maternity leave before your baby's expected date of birth and a minimum of four weeks of leave after your baby is born.

There are also special provisions if your child is born earlier or later than the expected due date. 

  • Early Birth: If the baby arrives more than four weeks earlier than your expected due date (premature birth) and you haven’t started your maternity leave yet, you can begin your 26-week leave from your child's birth date.

  • Late Birth: If the baby is late, and you have less than four weeks of your maternity leave left, you can request an additional unpaid leave to get at least four weeks of maternity leave post-childbirth.

Is Maternity Leave in Ireland a Paid Leave?

Your employer isn’t legally obliged to pay you while you’re on maternity leave (ordinary or additional), and you must refer to your employment contract for details.  

But look:

Even if your employer doesn't offer maternity pay, you can apply for Maternity Benefit, a social welfare payment for pregnant employees from the Department of Social Protection (DSP).

To qualify for Maternity Benefit, you must be covered by Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) and fulfil certain eligibility requirements, which will determine your leave entitlements. 

Learn more about Maternity Benefit Qualification Criteria and its Payment Rates

If you're employed, you can apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your maternity leave starts. If you're self-employed, you can apply at least 12 weeks in advance. But remember, Maternity Benefit payments aren’t available to individuals on additional maternity leave.

When Should You Notify Your Employer That You’re Going on a Maternity Leave?

Here are a few things to consider while notifying your employer about going on maternity leave:

  • You must give your employer a written notice at least four weeks before starting your leave and provide medical certificates stating your baby's expected due date. 

  • If you plan on taking additional maternity leave, you must give your employer at least four weeks' notice before your expected return date from your ordinary leave. You can also apply for an additional maternity leave at the same time as you apply for your ordinary leave. 

  • To cancel your maternity leave request, you must send a written notice to your employer stating that you want to withdraw your application as soon as you change your mind.

What Are Your Employment Protection Rights While You’re on Maternity Leave?

If you’re on maternity leave, you're entitled to certain employment rights, including:

  • Job protection: Your position at work will remain secure while you're on maternity leave, attending medical appointments.

  • Preserved employee benefits: During maternity leave, you still get to keep all your job benefits like annual leave, public holiday pay, and regular salary raises.

  • Paid time off from work: You can take paid time off work for medical appointments before and after childbirth, one set of ante-natal classes, and breastfeeding breaks.

  • Guaranteed return to work: After your maternity leave ends, you can return to your old job. If, for some reason, you can't return to the same job, the company should offer you suitable alternative work that's just as good in terms of pay and work conditions.

  • Protection against unfair dismissal: You're protected from unfair treatment at work, like being fired, laid off, or suspended unfairly because of your pregnancy. This protection starts from the beginning of your maternity leave until your leave ends.

4 FAQs on Maternity Leave in Ireland

Need more information on maternity leave in Ireland?Let’s answer some common questions.

1. Is it Possible to Postpone Maternity Leave in Ireland?

You can postpone your maternity leave in Ireland under certain conditions:

  • You can only postpone your maternity leave if your child has been hospitalised for serious medical reasons that require hospital care and not just for minor illnesses. 

  • You must have taken at least 14 weeks of maternity leave before and at least four weeks of leave after childbirth. 

If you meet these conditions, you can return to work and postpone the rest of your maternity leave for up to six months.

For postponement of maternity leave, you must inform your employer in writing immediately. However, they do have the right to deny your request. 

2. What Other Leave Are Available for New or Expecting Parents in Ireland?

Besides maternity leave, new or expectant parents in Ireland (if eligible) can claim the following leave:

  • Parental Leave: You can take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to look after your children if they're under 12.

  • Paternity Leave: If you're a male parent (the father, mother's partner, or the adoptive parent in adoption cases), you can take two weeks of paternity leave. You can use this leave within the first six months after your child's birth or adoption.

  • Parent's Leave: You can get seven weeks of leave to spend time with your child during the first two years after birth or after you adopted them.

  • Adoptive Leave: If you're adopting a child as a couple or a single parent, you can take up to 24 weeks of adoptive leave.

  • Leave for Medical Care: If you're a parent or carer, you can take five days of unpaid leave to provide full-time care to someone with serious health issues.

3. How Does Ireland’s Maternity Leave Compare Against Other EU Countries?

New and expectant mothers in Ireland can get up to 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and an extra 16 weeks of additional unpaid maternity leave. 

While the duration of maternity leave is moderate, the pay rate of €274 per week for the initial 26 weeks is relatively lower compared to other EU countries.

For example, Bulgaria offers the longest paid maternity leave in the EU, lasting 58.6 weeks, with the mother receiving 90% of their salary. This is followed by Norway offering 49 weeks of maternity leave with a payment equivalent to 80 to 100% of the mother's salary.

4. What Childcare Options Are Available in Ireland When You Return From Maternity Leave?

In Ireland, you have various childcare options before you return to work. These include:

  • Childminders: Childminders are self-employed individuals who take care of children in their own homes.

  • Nurseries and Crèches: These are larger centres with trained professionals designed to cater to infants and toddlers.

  • Play Schools and Montessori Schools: These institutions focus on fun learning and play, helping children prepare for primary school. 

  • Day Care Centres: These centres offer a blend of services provided by nurseries, crèches, playschools, and Montessori schools, catering to a broader age group of children.

  • Nannies and Au Pairs: Nannies are professional caregivers with specific childcare qualifications and first aid training. Whereas, Au pairs provide childcare and housekeeping in exchange for a room and allowance.

Offer Maternity Coverage and Health Benefits to Your Employees with Kota

Maternity leave allows mothers to recover physically and bond with their newborns without the stress of work obligations.

As an employer, you can further support the well-being of your pregnant employees by offering comprehensive insurance and healthcare packages. 

Enter: Kota. 

Kota lets your employees pick health plans that provide maternity coverage and supplement them with extra maternity benefits add-ons.

It also lets you:

  • Effortlessly manage and scale your employee benefits.

  • Analyse and compare your benefits package against market standards.

  • Integrate Kota with your existing HR & payroll tools to cut down on administrative overheads.

Join Kota and easily manage your employees' health and maternity coverage with our digital app.

Aine Kavanagh

Article written by

Aine Kavanagh

👋🏻 Hi I'm Aine, Head of Customer Success at Kota. Whether you're a Kota customer, a Kota user, or you're just browsing, I hope to help educate and empower those who want to know more about owning their own benefits, and building financial autonomy 📚

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