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Maternity Leave in Ireland – know what you’re entitled to

Parental Leave in Ireland

In Ireland, we are lucky to have laws which entitle us to time with our new baby. Every mother is entitled to 42 weeks of Maternity Leave, 26 weeks paid and 16 weeks unpaid. Every father is entitled to 2 weeks of paid Paternity Leave, to be taken at any time within the first 6 months of the baby’s life. Your employer is not obliged to pay you, but they are obliged to keep your job open for your return. We refer to the first 26 weeks as “paid” because you are entitled to Maternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection. However, some employers do offer full pay during Parental Leave. Check your employment contract to see what benefits your employer offers. You are still entitled to accumulate all Annual Leave and Public Holidays while on Maternity Leave.

Parental benefits are a good thing to keep in mind when accepting a new job/contract. If you are planning on having a baby in the coming years, always pay close attention to what kind of support is offered by the company as part of your contract. Maternity Benefit is only 30% of the national average wage in Ireland, so having your employer supplement this would be a huge help.

Fathers can apply for Paternity Benefit for their 2 weeks of leave. These benefits are granted if you have paid the required amount of PRSI.

Make sure to apply for Maternity/Paternity Benefit at least 4 weeks in advance, or 12 weeks if you are self-employed.

If you are on probation you will still be entitled to all of your parental rights. Once you return you will continue your probationary period.

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Know the law

Telling the boss

It doesn’t have to be scary! Legally, you have to tell your boss about your pregnancy at least 4 weeks before you intend to go on Maternity Leave, but it is recommended to let them know as soon as possible for health and safety reasons. You’ll need to give them proof of your pregnancy, which you can get from the doctor who confirms your pregnancy. Try not to tell your colleagues before you tell your boss. Your boss has probably been through this before, so the whispering and giggles will be a big give-away. If you feel like your boss may not react positively to the news, then it may be better to tell a HR representative, or another manager first so you have some moral support. Your boss may ask you questions such as “Will you be taking the full 42 weeks?” or “Are you definitely going to return after maternity leave?”, do not feel pressured to give definitive answers to these questions. Give yourself wiggle-room and manage their expectations.

Health and Safety

Your employer will need to carry out a risk assessment once you tell them about your pregnancy. If your work environment poses a risk to your and your baby then your employer must move you to a suitably safe area. If your duties pose a risk then they must temporarily give you another role, at the same rate of pay. If none of these options are suitable then you may be entitled to Health and Safety Leave.

You can also get Health and Safety Leave if you work night shifts. If at least 25% of your working hours are scheduled between midnight and 7 am you should talk to your doctor about the effects of night shifts on your pregnancy. Your doctor may decide to certify you as unfit for night work. Your job must then schedule you for daytime shifts only. If they can’t facilitate this then you must be granted Health and Safety Leave.

Appointments and Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are a great way to prepare for your baby, especially if you’re a first-time parent. You learn all about pregnancy, birth and caring for a newborn. Plus, you get to chat with other new parents and get expert opinions on any concerns you may have. Dublin City Mum has some great options listed on their website.

While at work, you are entitled to paid time off to attend one set of antenatal classes. Fathers are allowed paid time off to attend the final two antenatal classes.

You need to notify your employer 2 weeks before an appointment or class. Always keep proof of your attendance at appointments and classes, as employers can ask for proof.

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It's me + one now

When Can I Go On Leave?

You can go on Maternity Leave as early as 16 weeks before your due date, but no later than 2 weeks before your due date. Many mothers choose to take Maternity Leave as late in their pregnancy as possible to maximise the amount of time off after the baby’s arrival. Everyone’s pregnancy is different, so don’t feel as though you need to persevere through the final weeks in work. The stress of keeping up with a hectic work schedule is not going to benefit you or your baby.

Mothers do not need to take their full Maternity Leave, but you must notify your employer 4 weeks before you intend to return. You cannot return to work for at least 4 weeks after the birth of your baby. If you are anxious to return to work as soon as possible due to financial pressure, talk to your local Citizens Information office. Explore all possible options to ease your worries so you can enjoy your time with your baby as much as possible.

If you choose to take the additional 16 weeks of Maternity Leave you must notify your employer 4 weeks before the end of your basic leave. Always give notice in writing. Even if you’ve spoken to your boss and confirmed that you’ll be taking the extra time, send a dated letter confirming your return date. The written notice will be filed away as proof that you followed the rules and maintain your right to return to work.

Premature Birth

If your baby arrives before you were planning on taking your Maternity Leave, the basic entitlement of Maternity Benefit is extended for the number of weeks your baby was premature.

For example, if you were planning to go on Maternity Leave (and start your Maternity Benefit) during your 37th week of pregnancy, but your baby is born during the 32nd week of pregnancy, you will be entitled to 31 weeks of basic Maternity Benefit, rather than the usual 26 weeks of basic entitlement.

You must notify your employer, in writing, within 14 days of the birth.

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Returning to work

Returning to work after having a baby can be emotional and stressful. Make sure you take every opportunity to take care of yourself during the transition, including attending all necessary postnatal appointments. You are entitled to paid time off to attend postnatal medical appointments in the first 22 weeks after the birth.

You will be allowed breastfeeding breaks if you have returned to work within 26 weeks of the baby’s birth. These breaks will be 60 minutes per day. Talk to your boss about breastfeeding breaks to arrange a schedule that works for both your milk production and your job role.

After 26 weeks, there is no legislation to guarantee your breastfeeding breaks. Although, this may change soon as a new law has been proposed which seeks to allow mothers to have breastfeeding breaks up to one year after giving birth. If this new legislation is passed, mothers will be entitled to a one-hour break twice a day until their baby’s first birthday. Each break would be increased by 30 minutes per baby, in the case of multiple births. Read the full document here.

If your role has changed while you were away, your employer must provide a suitable alternative role which has the same benefits as your previous role. If pay, or other conditions, have improved while you were on leave you are entitled to these benefits once you return.

Remember, you must give your employer 4 weeks written notice before you return to work. You can lose the right to return to work if you don’t give them the proper notice.

If you have been treated unfairly at work due to pregnancy, breastfeeding or parental status you can make a complaint to Workplace Relations within 6 months of the incident(s).

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Know your rights

It’s a journey

This article has dealt with the slightly boring, but necessary aspects of pregnancy. It’s important to be sure of your obligations and rights so you can focus on planning the more fun stuff, like decorating a nursery or getting a scan. Take the time to enjoy your journey through pregnancy.

At UltraScan, you can enjoy each stage of your pregnancy. From Early Pregnancy Baby Scans from 8 weeks pregnant, Gender Determination Packages from 16 weeks pregnant and 3D/4D Baby Scans from 24 weeks pregnant. Our immersive ultrasound experiences will help you to forget the strains of organising and fantasise about holding your little one in the coming weeks.

We look forward to welcoming you to our state-of-the-art clinic in Fashion City. Book Online now and one of our friendly staff will be in touch to confirm your appointment.

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