If you are having a baby in Ireland there are various benefits and entitlements relating to both employment and social welfare you may be able to avail of depending on your circumstances. It is important to be aware of the various supports available. The following information provides an overview of this area.
If you become pregnant while in employment and you are exposed to certain risks in the workplace, or you are involved in nightwork, (i.e. spend at least three hours or 50% of your work between midnight-7am), you may be entitled to health and safety leave from work. If you are entitled to health and safety leave and you have sufficient social insurance contributions, you may also be entitled to Health and Safety Benefit from the Department of Social Protection while on leave. You may also be entitled to health and safety leave and Health and Safety Benefit when you return to work following the birth (only if you are breastfeeding).
Before the birth you are entitled to take paid time off work to attend one set of antenatal classes. This is a once-off right which covers all pregnancies while in employment. You may also take reasonable time off for medical visits both before and after the birth. Expectant fathers have a once-off right to attend two antenatal classes.
All female employees in Ireland, no matter how long they have been working, are entitled to take maternity leave for a basic period of 26 weeks. At least two weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby's expected birth and at least four weeks taken after. You can also avail of an additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave. If a mother dies within 40 weeks of the birth, the father is entitled to maternity leave from work.
During the basic period of maternity leave you may be entitled to Maternity Benefit providing you satisfy the social insurance contribution conditions.
Employers in Ireland are not legally obliged to grant male employees special paternity leave (either paid or unpaid) following the birth of their child, however, some employers, such as the Civil Service, do.
In general, Child Benefit is payable from the first day of the month after the child is born. It is paid at higher rates for multiple births such as twins or triplets.
If you are a medical card holder you are entitled to a Maternity Cash Grant from the Health Service Executive on the birth of your child.
If your income is insufficient to meet the costs associated with your baby you may be able to apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment from the Department of Social Protection's representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer).
If you are parenting alone you may be entitled to the One Parent Family Payment which is a means-tested payment from the Department of Social Protection. You can receive Maternity Benefit at a reduced rate, if you are getting One Parent Family Payment.
When you return to work you may be able to avail of parental leave. You are not entitled to pay from your employer while you are on parental leave nor are you entitled to any social welfare payment equivalent to Maternity Benefit.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.