Entitlement to Maternity Leave & Maternity Benefit

There are a number of queries which may arise for women in work who are pregnant. The following are some frequently asked question that arise:

How much maternity leave can I take from work?

As an employee, you have the right to take 26 weeks’ maternity leave if you become pregnant. You also have the right to take up to 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave. You can take this time off work from full-time, casual or part-time employment. It does not matter how long you have been working for your employer. You must take at least 2 weeks’ maternity leave before your baby is due, and at least 4 weeks after the baby is born.

Can I take time off for medical visits?

While you are pregnant, you can take time off for medical visits connected with the pregnancy. You can take as much time off as you need for these visits, including the time for travelling to and from the appointment and for the appointment itself. You must give your employer a note from your doctor to confirm the pregnancy, and give 2 weeks’ notice of your medical visits. You should show your appointment card if your employer asks to see it at any time after your first appointment.

You can also take time off for medical visits, for up to 14 weeks after the birth. You have the right to be paid while keeping these medical appointments, both before and after the birth.

Can I take time off for antenatal classes?

You can take paid time off work to attend some antenatal classes. You are entitled to attend one set of antenatal classes except for the last 3 classes of the set. Fathers can take paid time off to attend the last 2 antenatal classes immediately before the birth.

How do I apply for Maternity Leave?

You should apply to your employer in writing at least 4 weeks before you want to start maternity leave and you must provide a medical certificate confirming your pregnancy. You must also give at least 4 weeks’ written notice if you want to take the 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave. You can give both these notices at the same time.

Will my employer pay me while I am on Maternity Leave?

There is no obligation on employers to pay you while you are on maternity leave. However, some employers will continue to pay an employee, in full, while she is on maternity leave and require her to have any Maternity Benefit paid to them. You should check your contract of employment to see what applies to you. 

Who is entitled to receive Maternity Benefit?

Maternity Benefit is paid by the Department of Social Protection to women who are on maternity leave from work and have a certain number of paid PRSI contributions on their social insurance record.  They must be  in insurable employment up to the first day of their maternity leave.

The PRSI contributions can be from both employment or self-employment – the PRSI classes that count for Maternity Benefit are A, E, H and S (self-employed). Members of the Defence Forces who pay PRSI at Class H are insured for Maternity Benefit but it is not payable while they are in service. You should check with your local Citizens Information Centre to see if you meet the PRSI requirements

What is the current rate of Maternity Benefit?

The Maternity Benefit rate in 2022 is €250 per week. Maternity Benefit is paid directly into your bank or building society account (a current or deposit account, not a mortgage account) or you can choose to have it paid directly into your employer’s bank account. Payment is made each week in advance.

How do I apply for Maternity Benefit?

You can apply for Maternity Benefit online at MyWelfare.ie. To apply online you must have a Public Services Card (linked to your mobile phone number) and a verified MyGovID account.

Alternatively, you can fill in a Maternity Benefit application form and send it to the Maternity Benefit section of the Department of Social Protection. You can get a form from your local Social Welfare office or Citizens Information Centre

When should I apply for Maternity Benefit?

You should apply for the payment at least 6 weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave (12 weeks if you are self-employed). If you are already on certain social welfare payments then you may get half-rate Maternity Benefit.

I have recently returned to Ireland from working in another EU country. Will I qualify for Maternity benefit?

If you were previously insurably employed in a country covered by EU Regulations and you have paid at least one full-rate PRSI contribution in Ireland, you may combine your insurance record in that country with your Irish PRSI contributions to help you qualify for Maternity Benefit. You must be in insurable employment in Ireland currently and have paid your most recent PRSI contribution in Ireland

How long is Maternity Benefit paid?

Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks (156 days). Maternity Benefit is a 6-day week payment which covers Monday to Saturday. Sunday is not treated as a day of entitlement to Maternity Benefit.

At least 2 weeks and not more than 16 weeks of leave must be taken before the end of the week in which your baby is due. To ensure you take the minimum 2-week period of maternity leave before the birth of your baby, you must start your maternity leave on the Monday before the week in which your baby is due. For example, if your due date is Wednesday 12 October 2022, the latest date for the start of your maternity leave is Monday 3 October 2022.

What is the situation if I take additional unpaid maternity leave?

You can take a further 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave which must be taken immediately after the end of your 26 weeks’ paid Maternity Benefit. This period is not covered by Maternity Benefit but you will be entitled to a credited social insurance contribution for each week of unpaid leave you take (up to the maximum of 16).

Must I give notice to my employer about returning  to work?

You must give your employer at least 4 weeks’ written notice that you intend to return to work. If you do not comply with these notice requirements, you may lose your rights.

Can I return to my old job after maternity leave?

You are treated as being in employment while you are on maternity leave and additional maternity leave. This means that you have the right to return to work to the same job with the same contract of employment. If this is too difficult to arrange, your employer must provide suitable alternative work on terms that are not ‘less favourable’ than in your previous job.

If pay or other conditions have improved while you have been on maternity leave, then you should get the improvements when you return to work. If you decide not to return to work after your period of maternity leave, you must give your employer notice in the usual way, as set out in your contract. 

Is there any payment for fathers?

Paternity Benefit is a payment for employed and self-employed people who are on paternity leave from work and covered by social insurance (PRSI). It is paid for 2 weeks and is available for any child born or adopted on or after 1 September 2016. You can start paternity leave at any time within the first 6 months following the birth or adoption placement.

If you need further information about any of the issues  raised above or you have other questions, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in Bantry on 0818 07 8390. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you.


The offices are staffed from 10am -5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am -4pm. Alternatively you can email on bantry@citinfo.ie or log on to www.citizensinformation.ie

WCP Staff

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