Maternity Benefit is a payment made to women who are on maternity leave from work and covered by social insurance (PRSI). You should apply for the payment 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. If you think you have been wrongly refused Maternity Benefit or you are unhappy about a decision of a Social Welfare Deciding Officer about your entitlements, you can appeal this decision.
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.
Taxation of Maternity Benefit
Maternity Benefit is taxable from 1 July 2013 for all claimants. Universal Social Charge and PRSI are not payable. You can read about how Maternity Benefit is taxed in the document, Taxation of social welfare payments. You can also get more information from Revenue on taxation of Maternity Benefit.
Maternity Benefit is paid by the Department of Social Protection to women who have a certain number of paid PRSI contributions on their social insurance record and who are in insurable employment up to the first day of their maternity leave. The last day of work can be within 16 weeks of the end of the week your baby is due.
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). Maternity Benefit is not payable to serving members of the Defence Forces who pay PRSI at Class H.
If you are employed you must have:
- At least 39 weeks PRSI paid in the 12-month period before the first day of your maternity leave
- At least 39 weeks PRSI paid since first starting work and at least 39 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the relevant tax year or in the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2015, the relevant tax year is 2013 and the year following that is 2014.
- At least 26 weeks PRSI paid in the relevant tax year and at least 26 weeks PRSI paid in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2015, the relevant tax year is 2013 and the year before that is 2012.
If you do not meet these PRSI conditions and you were self-employed before starting work as an employee, you can use your Class S contributions to qualify for Maternity Benefit - see PRSI conditions for self-employed people below.
If you are self-employed you must be in insurable employment and have:
- 52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2015, the relevant tax year is 2013.
- 52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2015, the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year is 2012.
- 52 weeks PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2015, the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year is 2014.
PRSI Class S contributions for a particular year are not awarded until you have paid tax due for that year. Your income tax and PRSI liabilities (primarily for the relevant tax year) must be paid to qualify for Maternity Benefit.
Note that if you do not earn €5,000 in a tax year you are not insurably self-employed. You may be required to submit your accounts or a statement from your accountant for the current year to prove that you are self-employed and liable to pay a Class S contribution. However, even if you are not sure whether you have enough earnings to qualify, you should always submit an application for Maternity Benefit to have your entitlement checked. If your expected due date is within 16 weeks of the start of the benefit year, your contributions from the previous year may be used to meet this condition. You may also qualify to have Maternity Benefit paid retrospectively if your earnings are over the €5,000 threshold when you return to work after maternity leave. (You should however make your claim in the normal way before starting maternity leave.)
If you do not meet these PRSI conditions and you were in insurable employment before becoming self-employed, you can use your PRSI contributions (Class A, E and H) in that employment to qualify for Maternity Benefit – see PRSI conditions for employed people above.
Insurance from employment in another country
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 have paid at least one full-rate PRSI contribution in Ireland within 16 weeks of the end of the week in which your baby is due.
If you are already getting a social welfare payment
Half-rate Maternity Benefit may be payable if you are getting any one of the following payments:
If you are providing full-time care to another person, you may qualify for half-rate Carer's Allowance with your Maternity Benefit.
Under the Maternity Protection Act 1994, a woman who qualifies for Maternity Benefit is entitled to claim Family Income Supplement (FIS) (provided she meets the conditions of the FIS payment and has a family – a pregnant woman who has no other children does not qualify for FIS until the birth of the baby).
All employees must have their leave certified by their employer. However, if your contract of employment ends within 16 weeks of the end of the week in which your baby is due and you satisfy the social insurance (PRSI) conditions, Maternity Benefit is payable from the day after the date on your P45 .
Duration of Maternity Benefit
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 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 14 October 2015, the latest date for the start of your maternity leave is Monday 5 October 2015.
You can take a further 16 weeks 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).
If your baby is born prematurely (before your maternity leave is due to begin), you should send a letter from your doctor to the Maternity Benefit section of the Department of Social Protection. The letter should confirm the date the baby was born and that the baby was born prematurely.
Stillbirths and miscarriages
If you have a stillbirth or miscarriage any time after the 24th week of pregnancy (i.e from the beginning of the 25th week) you are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave. You are also entitled to 26 weeks Maternity Benefit provided you satisfy the social insurance (PRSI) requirements.
To apply for Maternity Benefit following a stillbirth, you need to send a letter from your doctor with the Maternity Benefit application form, confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
Hospitalisation of baby
If your baby is in hospital and you have been getting Maternity Benefit for at least 14 weeks (including at least 4 weeks since your baby was born) you can postpone payment of your remaining 12 weeks of benefit for up to 6 months. To postpone payment of your Maternity Benefit you need to apply in writing to the Maternity Benefit Section in the Department of Social Protection. When your baby is discharged from hospital you must notify the Maternity Benefit Section in writing and payment of your remaining 12 weeks Maternity Benefit will continue within seven days.
How the payment is made
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.
Disqualification from Maternity Benefit
You can do voluntary work, public representative work (for example, a councillor or TD) and courses of education while you are getting Maternity Benefit. However, your payment will be stopped if you engage in insurable (paid) employment.
If you intend to return to employment earlier than you stated on your application form, you must notify the Maternity Benefit Section at least 2 weeks before your new ' return to work date '.
You will not be paid Maternity Benefit for any period you spend outside the EU. If you are an EU citizen, you can get Maternity Benefit for any period of your maternity leave spent in another EU country. You cannot receive payment for any period of time spent outside the EU. If you are not an EU citizen you will only get Maternity Benefit for periods you spend in the Republic of Ireland.
If you do not apply for Maternity Benefit within 6 months of the birth of your baby, you may lose benefit.
For new Maternity Benefit claims from 6 January 2014 a standard rate of €230.00 per week is paid.
Rate of payment for claims beginning on or after 6 January 2014