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 at least 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.
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.
Budget 2019: The weekly rate of Maternity Benefit will increase by €5 with proportional increases for qualified adults and people getting half-rate. In addition, the weekly rate for a qualified child will increase by €2.20 from €31.80 to €34 for children under 12 years of age. It will increase by €5.20 from €31.80 to €37 for children aged 12 years and over. These increases will take effect from the week beginning 25 March 2019.
If you are unhappy with a decision about your application for Maternity Benefit, you can make an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You should appeal within 21 days of getting the decision.
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 introduced Paternity Benefit, together with statutory paternity leave of 2 weeks. The combined package of paternity leave and Paternity Benefit can start at any time within the first 6 months following birth or adoption of a child.
The provisions apply to births or adoptions since 1 September 2016.
Taxation of Maternity Benefit
Maternity Benefit is taxable 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 Employment Affairs and 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 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). Members of the Defence Forces who pay PRSI at Class H are insured for Maternity Benefit but it is not payable while they are in service.
If you are employed you must have:
- At least 39 weeks of PRSI paid in the 12-month period before the first day of your maternity leave
- At least 39 weeks of PRSI paid since first starting work and at least 39 weeks of 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 2018, the relevant tax year is 2016 and the year following that is 2017.
- At least 26 weeks of 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 2018, the relevant tax year is 2016 and the year before that is 2015.
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 of PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2018, the relevant tax year is 2016.
- 52 weeks of 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 2018, the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year is 2015.
- 52 weeks of 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 2018, the tax year immediately following the relevant tax year is 2017.
PRSI Class S contributions for a particular year are not awarded until you have paid tax due for that year. To qualify for Maternity Benefit, your income tax and PRSI liabilities (primarily for the relevant tax year) must be paid.
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 be in insurable employment in Ireland currently and have paid your most recent PRSI contribution in Ireland.
More information is available in our document about combining your social insurance contributions from abroad.
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:
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Widow's and Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension
- Widow's and Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension
- Deserted Wife's Benefit or Allowance
- Prisoner's Wife's Allowance
- Death Benefit by way of Widow's/Widower's/Surviving Civil Partner's or Dependent Parents' Pension (under the Occupational Injuries Scheme)
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 Working Family Payment (WFP) (formerly known as Family Income Supplement) provided she meets the conditions of the WFP payment and has a family – a pregnant woman who has no other children does not qualify for WFP until the birth of the baby).
Employee: 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 your employment ends.
You must provide your employer with proof of the expected date of confinement. In other words, you will be required to provide your employer with a certificate from your doctor confirming when your baby is due. Your employer must then complete a form MB2: Employer Certificate for Maternity Benefit (pdf).
Self-employed: If you are self-employed a doctor must complete a form MB3: Medical Certificate for Maternity Benefit (pdf) to certify the expected due date of your baby.
Leave certification for adoption (employees and self-employed): You must produce a certificate of placement in relation to the child.
In the case of intercountry adoption that took place outside the State, you must produce a declaration of eligibility and particulars of the day of placement or expected day of placement.
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 of 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 10 October 2018, the latest date for the start of your maternity leave is Monday 1 October 2018.
You can take a further 16 weeks of 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).
Until recently, if your baby was born before the date when you were due to start maternity leave, your Maternity Benefit was only payable for 26 weeks from the date of your baby’s birth (the duration of your maternity leave).
Since 1 October 2017, Maternity Benefit is payable for an extra period after the end of this 26 weeks in the case of a premature birth. Maternity leave is also extended for this extra period.
This extension corresponds to the time period between your baby’s actual birth date and the expected start date of your maternity leave and Maternity Benefit, which would have been 2 weeks before the end of the week when your baby was due.
To bring forward the start date of your Maternity Benefit claim, you will need to give the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection either a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or a letter from the hospital confirming the baby’s actual date of birth (which must be on or after 1 October 2017).
The Department will need further information in order to determine any entitlement to extra Maternity Benefit due to the premature nature of your baby’s birth. You will need to send the Department a letter from the hospital confirming the actual date of birth and the number of weeks’ gestation at which your baby was born, before the end of the first 26 weeks of Maternity Benefit. This information is required in order to ensure that you get your full entitlement. If you wish, you can provide all this information in your initial letter to the Department.
The following example shows how the entitlement to extra Maternity Benefit works.
Example - baby is born in week 30
You may have planned to start your maternity leave and Maternity Benefit at week 37 of your pregnancy, 2 weeks before the end of the week when your baby was due.
Under the new rules, if your baby is born in week 30 of your pregnancy (approximately 7 weeks before you planned to start receiving Maternity Benefit and maternity leave) you still claim Maternity Benefit for the standard 26 weeks from the date of birth. However, you can now claim an extra 7 weeks at the end of the 26 weeks, so your Maternity Benefit and maternity leave will last until your baby is approximately 33 weeks old.
(Previously, if your baby was born in week 30 of your pregnancy, approximately 7 weeks before you planned to start receiving Maternity Benefit, you could only claim Maternity Benefit for a total of 26 weeks from the date of birth. So your Maternity Benefit (and maternity leave) would both have ended when your baby was 26 weeks old.)
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 of maternity leave. You are also entitled to 26 weeks of 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
You can postpone the last 12 weeks of your maternity leave and Maternity Benefit if your child is in hospital. Your Maternity Benefit must have been in payment for at least 14 weeks and you must have taken at least 4 weeks of maternity leave after your baby was born. You can postpone your Maternity Benefit for up to 6 months.
You should apply in writing to the Maternity Benefit Section if you want to have your Maternity Benefit postponed. Your payment will resume when you send in written confirmation to the Maternity Benefit Section that your child has been discharged from hospital and your employer certifies that you are entitled to resume your postponed maternity leave.
Your payment will continue until your entitlement to Maternity Benefit finishes.
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'.
If you do not apply for Maternity Benefit within 6 months of the birth of your baby, you may lose this benefit.
Citizens of the EU/EEA and Switzerland can get Maternity Benefit for any period of their maternity leave spent in another EU/EEA country (including Switzerland). You can also travel outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland and get Maternity Benefit for a maximum of 6 weeks.
Citizens of countries other than the EU/EEA or Switzerland can travel anywhere abroad and get Maternity Benefit for a maximum of 6 weeks.
To get Maternity Benefit while abroad, you need to inform Maternity Benefit Section of your intended absence, either by email at: email@example.com or by calling 01 471 5898 or Lo-call: 1890 690 690.
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.
Maternity Benefit is paid at a standard weekly rate.
|Maternity Benefit||Weekly rate|
Payments for dependants
If you have dependants, your rate of Maternity Benefit (excluding increases for dependants) is compared to the rate of Illness Benefit (including increases for dependants) that would be paid to you if you were absent from work through illness. The higher of the two rates is paid to you. Although the Illness Benefit rate begins from a lower personal base amount (€198 is the maximum Illness Benefit personal rate from 26 March 2018), it also takes into account extra payments for your family, and this is why, depending on the circumstances of your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and how many children you have, the rate paid to you may be greater than the rate to which you would have otherwise been entitled.
Example (March 2018 rates): Mary is entitled to the standard Maternity Benefit rate of €240. Her partner is unemployed and signing on for unemployment credits. They have two children. If she got Illness Benefit she would get €393 (this is the personal rate of Illness Benefit + an Increase for a Qualified Adult + Increases for 2 Qualified Children). She cannot get less Maternity Benefit than she would get if ill and getting Illness Benefit. For this reason, she will get Maternity Benefit of €393.
You will qualify for a full-rate IQA and a full-rate IQC if your adult dependant is unemployed and signing on for credits, or is earning under €100.01 per week.
If your adult dependant is earning between €100.01 and €310 per week, you will get a tapered rate of IQA and a full-rate IQC. If your adult dependant is earning between €310.01 and €400 per week, you will not get an IQA but you will get half rate IQC. If your adult dependant earns over €400 per week, you will not get an IQA or IQC.
How to apply
You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least 6 weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave. If you are self-employed, you should apply at least 12 weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave.
To apply, you must fill in a Maternity Benefit application form (pdf). The form includes a section MB2 which must be completed by your employer. If you’re not working or you are self-employed, you must get section MB3 completed by your doctor. Your doctor will not charge you for completing the MB3.
You can apply for Maternity Benefit online at mywelfare.ie. You upload your application form and supporting documentation (form MB2 for employees or form MB3 if you're self-employed) and submit them online.
To apply online you must have a Public Services Card (linked to your mobile phone number) and a verified MyGovID account. To find out if your mobile phone number is linked to your PSC, contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office. If you do not already have a Public Services Card, you can make an appointment to get one at mywelfare.ie. You will first need to register with the site. To do this you need a mobile phone number and an email address. When you have made your appointment, print the notification and bring it to your appointment along with the required documents (listed in the notification).
Fill in a Maternity Benefit
application form (pdf) and send it to the Maternity Benefit Section of the
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This form is also
available by post at the address listed below.
Where to apply
You can email the Maternity Benefit section using the secure enquiry