The Department of Justice and Equality has responsibility for maternity leave which is provided for in the 1994 and 2004 Maternity Protection Acts (as amended). The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has responsibility for the associated social welfare payment of maternity benefit as provided for in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended).
Maternity benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to employed and self-employed pregnant women who satisfy certain PRSI contribution conditions on their own insurance record. Payment is made for a period beginning not later than 2 weeks before the end of the expected week of confinement. The original scheme was introduced in 1970 and was extended to include self-employed women with effect from June 1997.
As the scheme is intended to provide income support to women who are on leave, from their employment or self-employment, pre and post-delivery of their baby, regulations provide that a woman shall be disqualified from receiving maternity benefit for a period during which she engages in any form of insurable employment or insurable self-employment.
Maternity leave arrangements for employees are governed by the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 (as amended). In applying for maternity benefit, employees must have their maternity leave certified by their employer. Self-employed women certify their own leave for the purposes of the scheme and they can return to work whenever they chose.
This year it is estimated that there will be a weekly average of 20,000 recipients of maternity benefit at a cost of €264 million.