Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Questions (916, 927, 964, 982, 1008)

Patrick Costello

Question:

916. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will address a matter (details supplied) regarding maternity benefit [7587/20]

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Michael Moynihan

Question:

927. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration has been given to a temporary extension of the duration of maternity benefit for persons in receipt of the payment; her views on the difficult position for mothers whose payment is due to expire soon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7101/20]

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John Lahart

Question:

964. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to increase the maternity benefit payment to €350 in line with the pandemic unemployment payment for new mothers who have been impacted by Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7689/20]

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Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

982. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to matters in relation to new mothers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7852/20]

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Bríd Smith

Question:

1008. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated cost of extending maternity leave to all women currently on leave or who were on leave prior to the passing of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 for three months or until that legislation is revoked [8122/20]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 916, 927, 964, 982 and 1008 together.

Maternity benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to employed and self-employed women who are on maternity leave and who satisfy certain pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

Expectant mothers in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will not be adversely affected by the Covid situation. They can make their maternity application in line with the original expected start date of at least 2 weeks before the week in which the baby is due. The person should close their Pandemic Unemployment Payment and move onto Maternity Benefit as planned. A woman in this situation will then receive her full 26 week maternity benefit payment.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection also provides income support for women who have lost their employment and are unable to return to work at the end of their maternity leave, in the form of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Women concerned are eligible for this payment from the date when they were due to return to their employment after their maternity leave if they have lost their employment as a consequence of the pandemic.

Women on maternity leave should remain on that leave until such time as they are due to return to work. A person can also avail of up to 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave which can be added to the end of the 26 week period of paid leave.

Many employers can, and do, agree compassionate leave arrangements with staff who need to take short periods of time off to care for another person or new baby. These include arrangements to enable employees to work remotely from home, to alter shift patterns around their partners work, to work-up time taken, to rearrange parental leave or to bring forward annual leave entitlements from future work periods.

Where parents have to continue to work and is it not possible to make appropriate compassionate leave arrangements, employees can call on some statutory entitlements which provide for income support including paid Force Majeure Leave, Parent's Leave together with Parent's Benefit, for each parent where a baby was born after 1st November 2019 or unpaid Parental Leave.

A decision to extend the period of maternity leave for employees would have to be implemented by the Minister for Justice and Equality who has policy and legal responsibility for this area. In 2020 it is estimated that the Department will spend in excess of €270 million on maternity benefit in respect of an average of 21,000 recipients per week. Each additional week of maternity benefit, based on current recipient levels, would cost €10.3m increasing to €134 million for a 3 month period. It should also be noted that there are additional significant costs to the Exchequer as these estimates do not include the costs of salary top-ups and substitution in the public sector.

The weekly rate of the Covid-19 payment is €350 and is aligned with the jobseeker payment for a person with an adult dependent. The annual cost on increasing maternity benefit to €350 would be an addition approx. €115m. Decisions around the extension of this benefit would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.

I trust that this clarifies the matter.