What is Maternity Benefit?
You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least 6 weeks before you plan to go on maternity leave (12 weeks if you are self-employed).
Some employers will continue to pay you on maternity leave and request that your Maternity Benefit be paid to them. You should check your contract of employment to see what applies to you.
If you are already getting a social welfare payment and working, you may get half-rate Maternity Benefit – see ‘Half-rate Maternity Benefit’ below.
Other family benefits
Other social welfare benefits for parents include:
- Paternity Benefit
- Parent’s Benefit
- Working Family Payment
- Adoptive Benefit
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Child Benefit
Budget 2024: increase to Maternity Benefit
It was announced in Budget 2024 that the weekly rate of Maternity Benefit will increase by €12 from January 2024.
How to qualify for Maternity Benefit
To get Maternity Benefit, you must have:
- Enough PRSI (social insurance) contributions
- Certified maternity leave – see ‘Leave certification from work’ below
PRSI (social insurance) contributions
To get Maternity you must have a certain number of paid PRSI contributions and be in insurable employment up to the first day of your maternity leave.
Your PRSI contributions can be from employment or self-employment. The PRSI classes that count for Maternity Benefit are A, E, H and S.
If you are a members of the Defence Force and you pay PRSI at Class H, you are insured for Maternity Benefit but it is not paid while you are in service. This is because you will get military pay during your maternity leave.
Time spent on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the COVID-19 Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) are treated as if you continued to make insurance contributions at your normal social insurance class.
How many PRSI contributions do I need?
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 after the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2023, the relevant tax year is 2021 and the year after that is 2022.
- At least 26 weeks of PRSI paid in the relevant tax year and at least 26 weeks PRSI paid in the tax year before the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2023, the relevant tax year is 2021 and the year before that is 2020.
If you do not meet these PRSI conditions and you were self-employed before starting work as an employee, you might meet the contribution conditions for the self-employed in the relevant tax year – see 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 2023, the relevant tax year is 2021.
- 52 weeks of PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year before the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2023, the tax year before the relevant tax year is 2020.
- 52 weeks of PRSI contributions paid at Class S in the tax year after the relevant tax year. For example, if you are going on maternity leave in 2023, the tax year after the relevant tax year is 2022.
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 (importantly 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 might meet the contribution conditions for employees in the relevant tax year – see PRSI conditions for employed people above.
If you worked in another country
If you were employed in the UK or a country covered by EU Regulations and you have paid at least one full-rate PRSI contribution in Ireland, you can combine your insurance record in that country with your Irish PRSI contributions to help you qualify for Maternity Benefit. To do this, you must be in insurable employment in Ireland currently and have paid your most recent PRSI contribution in Ireland
Leave certification from work
Employee: All employees must have their maternity leave certified by their employer. You must give your employer 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).
If your contract of employment ends within 16 weeks of the end of the week in which your baby is due then your Maternity Benefit is paid the day after your employment ends. You must meet the PRSI conditions and your employer must fill in form MB2 (as above).
Self-employed: If you are self-employed a doctor must complete form MB3: Medical Certificate for Maternity Benefit (pdf) to certify the expected due date of your baby.
How long is Maternity Benefit paid?
Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks (156 days). Sunday is not counted.
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 make sure that you take the minimum 2-week 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 11 October 2023, the latest date for the start of your maternity leave is Monday 2 October 2023.
You can take a further 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave immediately after 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 premature (before the date you were due to start your maternity leave) your Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks from the date of your baby’s birth plus an extra period after the end of 26 weeks. The extra Maternity Benefit will be the same as the time between your baby’s actual birth date and the expected start date of your maternity leave and Maternity Benefit.
Maternity leave is also extended for this extra period.
Getting your Maternity Benefit early
To bring forward the start date of your Maternity Benefit to the date of your baby’s birth, you need to give the Department of Social Protection (DSP) either a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or a letter from the hospital confirming the baby’s actual date of birth.
Getting your extra Maternity Benefit
Before the end of the first 26 weeks of Maternity Benefit, you must send the DSP a letter from the hospital confirming the actual date of birth and the number of weeks’ gestation at which your baby was born. You must send this information to get your full entitlement.
The following example shows how the 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.
If your baby is born in week 30 of your pregnancy (approximately 7 weeks before you planned to start Maternity Benefit) you still claim Maternity Benefit for the standard 26 weeks from the date of birth. However, you can claim an extra 7 weeks at the end of the 26 weeks, so your Maternity Benefit will last until your baby is approximately 33 weeks old.
Stillbirths and miscarriages
If you have a stillbirth or miscarriage and your baby has a birth weight of at least 500 grams or at any time after the 24th week of pregnancy (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 meet the social insurance (PRSI) contributions.
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 Benefit for up to 6 months 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 should apply in writing to the Maternity Benefit Section if you want to have your Maternity Benefit postponed. If your baby qualifies for Domiciliary Care Allowance, you may get a carer’s payment – see below.
Your Maternity Benefit will restart when the Maternity Benefit Section gets written confirmation from you that your child has been discharged from hospital and your employer certifies that you are entitled to restart your postponed maternity leave.
Your payment will continue until your entitlement to Maternity Benefit finishes.
If you are getting Maternity Benefit and your baby qualifies for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA), you may also get half-rate Carer’s Allowance.
If your baby is getting DCA, you may be eligible for a Carer’s Support Grant.
Going back to work
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'.
EU, EEA and Switzerland: If you are a citizen of the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you can get Maternity Benefit for any period of your maternity leave spent in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland. You can travel anywhere abroad (outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland) and get Maternity Benefit for a maximum of 6 weeks.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens: Citizens of countries other than the EU/EEA or Switzerland can travel anywhere outside Ireland and get Maternity Benefit for a maximum of 6 weeks.
To get your Maternity Benefit paid while abroad, you must notify the Department before you travel.
Rate of Maternity Benefit
Weekly Maternity Benefit rate 2023
Extra payment for partner and child
If you have an adult or child dependants, the set rate of Maternity Benefit is compared to the rate of Illness Benefit 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 (IB) rate begins from a lower personal rate (€220 in 2023), it can include extra payments for your family, and this is why, depending on the circumstances of your partner and how many children you have, the rate paid to you may be higher than the set Maternity Benefit rate. You don’t apply for IB, but your Maternity Benefit will be increased to the IB rate if it is higher.
Example (2023 rates): Mary is entitled to the set Maternity Benefit rate of €262. Her partner is unemployed and signing on for unemployment credits. They have two children under 12 years of age. If she got Illness Benefit she would get €450 (this is the personal rate of Illness Benefit + an Increase for a Qualified Adult + Increases for 2 Qualified Children under 12). 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 €450.
If your adult dependant is getting a social welfare payment, you will not get an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA) but you may get a half-rate Increase for a Qualified Child (IQC).
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 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.
Taxation of Maternity Benefit
Maternity Benefit is taxable. You can get more information from Revenue on taxation of Maternity Benefit.
How the payment is made
Maternity Benefit is paid directly into your bank account. It is paid each week in advance.
If your employer is paying you while you are on maternity leave from work, you can have it paid directly into your employer's bank account.
Half-rate Maternity Benefit with another social welfare payment
Half-rate Maternity Benefit can be paid, if you qualify for Maternity Benefit and 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
- A Widow's Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Pension under the Death Benefit Occupational Injuries Scheme
If you are providing full-time care to another person, you may get half-rate Carer's Allowance with your full-rate Maternity Benefit.
Working Family Payment (WFP) and full-rate Maternity Benefit and can be paid at the same time. A pregnant woman who has no other children will not qualify for WFP until the birth of her baby.
How to apply for Maternity Benefit
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.
Fill in the online questions and upload the supporting documentation (either a completed MB2 or MB3 form).
The MB2 form must be completed by your employer.
The MB3 form must be completed by your doctor if you’re not working or you are self-employed. Your doctor will not charge you for completing the MB3 form.
Fill in a Maternity Benefit application form (pdf) and send it to the Maternity Benefit Section of the Department of Social Protection.
The form includes an MB2 section which must be completed by your employer.
If you’re not working or you are self-employed, you must get section of the form completed by your doctor. Your doctor will not charge you for completing the MB3 section of the form.
This form is also available by post at the address listed below.
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.