Maternity Leave Basics – For Employers

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This short article explains the responsibilities of employers and employees regarding maternity leave. 

All female employees in Ireland are entitled to maternity leave. As an employer, it is important to understand both your own responsibilities and those of your employee in respect of this leave.  

Employer Responsibilities 

An employee who becomes pregnant is entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave, plus an optional 16 weeks of unpaid leave. The additional leave must begin immediately following the end of the 26 week-period.  

In addition, your employee is entitled to  

  • Return to work to the same job on the same contract of employment. If this is not reasonably practicable, you may provide alternative suitable work;  
  • Paid time off for medical visits connected with the pregnancy, both before and after the birth, and certain ante-natal classes; and  
  • Leave for any public holidays that occur during maternity leave or additional maternity leave. This can be accrued as extra annual leave days, or paid out to the employee.  

There are certain situations where changes to maternity leave are allowed. These include miscarriage or stillbirth, premature birth, or illness. Further information can be found here.  

If your workplace poses risks to a pregnant employee, you may be required to provide alternative duties or health and safety leave for your employee. More information on protecting pregnant employees can be found here.  

Employee Responsibilities 

The pregnant employee must:   

  • Give 4 weeks’ notice of their intention to take maternity leave; 
  • Provide a medical certificate confirming their pregnancy and due date;  
  • Take at least two weeks of maternity leave prior to the week in which the baby is due; and  
  • Give 4 weeks’ notice of their intention to return to work at the end of their maternity leave.  

Difference between Maternity Leave and Maternity Benefit 

Maternity Leave and Maternity Benefit are separate concepts:  

  • Maternity Leave refers to the statutory entitlement to time off work, before and after giving birth, and applies to all employees regardless of how long they have worked for you or how many hours they work.  
  • Maternity Benefit refers to a weekly payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that an employee on maternity leave may qualify for if they have sufficient PRSI contributions. Some employers provide additional payment during maternity leave. This depends on the terms set out in the employee’s contract of employment. 

How GroForth Can Help 

Our team has extensive experience managing maternity payments and providing administrative support for maternity leave on behalf of our clients. To find out more about our services and how we can help your business, please get in touch

Nikki Johns, Payroll Manager

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