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.
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.
From 6 January 2014 the minimum and maximum rates of Maternity Benefit and Adoptive Benefit was standardised at €230 per week for new applicants. This will result in an increase of up to €12.20 for those receiving less than €230 per week and a reduction of up to €32 per week for all other claimants. The change applies to new claimants (from 6 January 2014). Existing claimants are not affected.
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:
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:
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 exceed 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.
If you were previously insurably employed in a country covered by EU Regulations or in a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement 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.
More information is available in our document about combining your social insurance contributions from abroad.
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.
Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|Maternity Benefit||Weekly rate|
If your claim is for a period of maternity leave which began before 6 January 2014, the following applies:
If you are employed, your weekly rate of Maternity Benefit is calculated by dividing your gross income in the relevant tax year by the number of weeks you actually worked in that year. Eighty percent (80%) of this amount is payable weekly, subject to a minimum payment and a maximum payment. (The relevant tax year is the second last complete income tax year before the year in which your maternity leave starts. The Benefit Year begins on the first Monday of each year and ends on the Sunday immediately before the first Monday of the following year.)
If you are self-employed, your weekly rate of Maternity Benefit is calculated by dividing your reckonable income in the relevant tax year by 52 weeks - 80% of this amount is payable weekly, subject to a minimum payment and a maximum payment.
If you are eligible for Maternity Benefit but have no recorded earnings in the Relevant Tax Year, you will get Maternity Benefit at the minimum amount.
Rates of payment for claims that started before 6 January 2014
|Maternity Benefit||Weekly rate|
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 (€188 is the maximum Illness Benefit personal rate), 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 (2014 rates): Mary is entitled to the standard Maternity Benefit rate of €230. Her partner is unemployed and signing on for unemployment credits. They have two children. If she got Illness Benefit she would get €372.40 (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 €372.40.
You will qualify for a full-rate IQA and a full-rate IQC, if your adult dependent is unemployed and signing on for credits or is earning under €100.01 per week.
If your adult dependent 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 dependent 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 dependent earns over €400 per week you will not get an IQA or IQC.
To apply fill in a Maternity Benefit application form (pdf) six weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave and send it to the Maternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection.
If you are self-employed, you should apply at least 12 weeks before you intend to go on maternity leave. This form is also available by post at the address listed below.
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.