All working women in Ireland are entitled to maternity leave from employment. This entitlement is not dependent on how long they’ve been working for the organisation or how many hours they have worked while employed there. Up until 2004, womens maternity rights were protected by the Maternity Protection Act 1994 but with the introduction of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) 2004 it brought extra rights for pregnant women in the workplace, improving the legislation. Since the 1st March 2007, women are now entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and they can also take an extra 16 weeks which are unpaid. Some of the entitlements set out in the Act are of the employee and some are at the discretion of the employer. The only exceptions to the entitlements provided for in the Maternity Protection Act are the exceptions in relation to the Defence Forces and Garda Siochana as regards ante-natal and post-natal classes.
Health and Safety:
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Regulations 2000 require an employer to weigh up the risk to the safety or health of any pregnant employees, an employee who is breastfeeding or any employee who has just given birth. If taking protective and preventative measures is not possible, the employee must be provided with other work or given health and safety leave. An employee doesn’t have to work night shifts during pregnancy or for 14 weeks after birth, if the doctor certifies that this would not be good for their health. Employees who are on health and safety leave are entitled to their regular wages for the first 3 weeks of their leave. Health and Safety Benefit may be an option, depending on the employee’s PRSI contributions, after the 3 weeks are over. If an employee becomes alert to the fact that she is no longer susceptible to risk by returning to work or if she stops breastfeeding, then she must inform her employer that she can return to work.
A pregnant employee is entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and they can also take an extra 16 weeks unpaid. Employers do not have to pay employees on Maternity Leave; as an alternative, the employee may have to apply for Maternity Benefit. However, depending on the employee’s work contract they could possibly be entitled to receive full pay minus the amount of Maternity Benefit to be paid.
➢ Additional Maternity Leave
This additional 16 weeks of maternity leave is not covered by maternity benefit. The employer also does not have to pay the employee and wages during this period of time. If an employee who is on additional maternity leave becomes ill, she can be on sick leave as opposed to additional maternity leave and this way she may be entitled to getting Illness Benefit instead.
➢ Termination of Additional Maternity Leave
There is no entitlement to the stopping of additional maternity leave in the event of sickness; an employee who is sick must request in writing to end the additional maternity leave.
An employee who gives birth early is entitled to a minimum period of 18 weeks leave beginning on either; the first day of maternity leave, the date of confinement or a particular date for certified medical conditions – whichever comes first.
If an employee gives birth when she has only 4 weeks of maternity leave left then she is able to have 4 weeks added on to her maternity leave. The employee is still entitled to additional maternity leave if this occurs.
In the event of a stillbirth that occurs after the 24th week of pregnancy, the woman is still permitted to take 18 weeks maternity leave.
Leave to which a father is entitled in the event of the death of the mother
There is no entitlement under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 to paternity leave. The exception to this is the death of the mother within 24 weeks of the birth of the child. In this case, the leave starts within the...