Maternity Leave

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Dermot Kelly

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Maternity Leave Entitlement

Statutory maternity leave in Ireland is governed by the provisions of the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 (as amended). Section 8 of the Acts provides for a minimum period of statutory maternity leave which is currently 26 consecutive weeks.



Legislation / Circulars


Maternity Leave

Anybody working under a contract of employment is entitled to protection under the Maternity Protection Act 1994-2004. There is no service qualification for any of the rights given under the Act which applies to all pregnant employees.


An employee is entitled to maternity leave provided the employee,

  1. As soon as reasonably practicable but not later than four weeks before the commencement of maternity leave, notified in writing her employer.
  2. Produced for her employer’s inspection a medical or other appropriate certificate confirming the pregnancy and specify the expected week of confinement.
  3. If you wish to change the date of commencement of maternity leave you may do so by furnishing a new written notification to your employer not later than 4 weeks before the new date of commencing maternity leave.

You have the right to up to 26 consecutive weeks maternity leave – a minimum of 2 weeks before the birth and a minimum of 4 weeks after the birth. 

You can take additional maternity leave for up to 16 more weeks, beginning immediately after the end of your 26 weeks’ basic maternity leave. Maternity Benefit does not cover additional maternity leave, and your employer does not have to pay you during this time.

You must give your employer written notification at least 4 weeks before you expect to return to work following maternity/additional maternity leave that you intend to return to work and stating the expected date of return.

It is very important that you give the proper notice of intention to return to work. If the proper notice is not given, it could affect your right to return to work under the Act.

The Safety Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 20079 provide inter alia that it is the duty of every employer to assess any risk to safety and health of employees and any possible effect on the pregnancy of, or breastfeeding by employees. The Acts make provision for what is to occur if as a result of the pregnancy of an employee, the employer is required to move the employee or where the employee cannot be required to perform her work. The Acts provide that the employee shall be granted leave from her employment under Section 18 of the Acts if:-

  1. It is not technically or objectively feasible for the employer to move the employee as required by the regulations, or
  2. such a move cannot reasonably be required on duly substantiated grounds, or
  3. The other work to which the employer proposes to move the employee is not suitable for her.

If you have a stillbirth any time after the 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to full maternity leave. This means you can take the basic 26 weeks’ maternity leave and 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave.

The Acts provide that for the purpose of receiving ante-natal or post-natal care (or both) an employee shall be entitled to time off from her work, without loss of pay, in accordance with Ministerial regulations. The relevant regulations are the Maternity Protection (Time Off for Ante-Natal and Post-Natal Care) Regulations 1995.

A pregnant employee is entitled to time off from her work, without loss of pay, in accordance with Ministerial regulations, for the purposes of attending one set of ante- natal classes (other than the last three classes in such a set) and those classes may be attended by her during one or more pregnancies. An expectant father is entitled once only to time off from his work, without loss of pay in accordance with Ministerial sanctions, for the purpose of attending the last two ante-natal classes in a set of such classes attended by the expectant mother of their child before the birth of their child.

When an employee is absent from work while on maternity leave or health and safety leave the employee shall be deemed to have been in employment and such absence shall not affect her rights.

When an employee is absent from work on additional maternity leave the employee shall be deemed to have been in employment while so absent and such absence shall not affect any right or obligation other than her right to remuneration or superannuation benefits or any obligation to pay contributions in or in respect of the employment during the absence.

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