Pregnancy and social welfare payments
The social welfare payment most identified with pregnancy and birth is Maternity Benefit. This document explains how pregnancy is treated if you are getting Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Illness Benefit, One-Parent Family Payment or are on an employment scheme.
If you are pregnant and getting a social welfare payment, you can generally continue to get your payment as long as you satisfy the conditions. You cannot qualify for Maternity Benefit if you are unemployed and pregnant, unless your contract of employment ends within 16 weeks of the week in which your baby is due and you satisfy the PRSI contribution conditions. In this case, Maternity Benefit is paid from the day after your employment ends. If you do not qualify for Maternity Benefit you may qualify for another social welfare payment. You may be entitled to half-rate Maternity Benefit if you are getting certain social welfare payments (for example, One-Parent Family Payment) and are in employment.
When your baby is born, if you do not qualify for Maternity Benefit, you may be able to stay on your payment or you may qualify for another payment. If you are working more than 19 hours a week on low pay and you have a family you may qualify for Working Family Payment (WFP) (formerly known as Family Income Supplement). In some cases WFP can be paid with Maternity Benefit.
Pregnancy and jobseeker's payments
If you are pregnant you may continue to get a jobseeker's payment - either Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker's Allowance. You are considered capable of work unless, you have complications during your pregnancy or you are ill. You must be available for and genuinely seeking work to get a jobseeker's payment. This means that you must continue to look for work throughout your pregnancy.
However, 4 weeks before your baby is due to be born and for 8 weeks after the birth, you do not have to sign-on at your local social welfare office and you do not have to prove that you are seeking work. You must inform your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office of your pregnancy.
Your Jobseeker’s Benefit will only be paid for the number of weeks remaining on your claim. If you no longer qualify for Jobseeker’s Benefit you can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance. The rules for Jobseeker's Allowance are similar to Jobseeker's Benefit but you will have to pass a means test.
When your baby is born you may qualify for an increase in your Jobseeker’s Benefit or Allowance for your child. If you are parenting alone you may qualify for the One-Parent Family Payment. You should contact your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office to inform them of the birth.
What if I am unemployed but don't qualify for a jobseeker's payment because of illness during pregnancy?
If you are sick or ill during your pregnancy you are not entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit. You may get Illness Benefit if you have worked and have enough social insurance contributions (see below). If you are not entitled to Illness Benefit and your illness is expected to last for more than 12 months you may be entitled to Disability Allowance.
If you are pregnant and either not getting a social welfare payment or not entitled to any of the above social welfare payments, you may get some financial support under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
Pregnancy and Illness Benefit
If you are pregnant, unemployed and claiming Illness Benefit you will continue to be paid Illness Benefit provided you have a condition other than pregnancy to warrant your being on Illness Benefit. You must continue to send in medical certificates to qualify for Illness Benefit.
You cannot use pregnancy itself as a medical reason to claim Illness Benefit. However, medical complications arising from your pregnancy can satisfy the medical criteria for Illness Benefit. When your baby is born you may qualify for an increase in your Illness Benefit for a child dependant. You should contact the Illness Benefit section to find out if you qualify.
Pregnant and on sick leave from work
If you are on sick leave from work and getting Illness Benefit immediately before you are due to start your maternity leave, you will be paid Maternity Benefit in the normal way if you satisfy the social insurance contributions.
The social insurance contributions for Maternity Benefit and Illness Benefit are not the same. Therefore, if you are in employment but on sick leave and not getting Illness Benefit you may still qualify for maternity leave and Maternity Benefit. However, you must satisfy the social insurance contributions.
Health and Safety Benefit is a weekly payment for employed women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and who are granted health and safety leave by their employer.
Pregnancy and One-Parent Family Payment
If you are pregnant and getting a One-Parent Family Payment, you will continue to get the payment as long as you satisfy the conditions. When your baby is born you will qualify for an increase in your payment for a child dependant. If you are pregnant and do not have other children, you are not entitled to One-Parent Family Payment until your baby is born.
You may get half-rate Maternity Benefit with your One-Parent Family Payment if you are employed and have enough social insurance contributions. If you are not entitled to a One-Parent Family Payment and you have no other income you may get some financial support under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
Pregnancy and employment schemes
If you are taking part in an employment scheme you have the full range of statutory employment rights including maternity leave.
If you become pregnant while on an employment scheme (Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme, Tús and Gateway schemes) you are entitled to take 26 weeks’ maternity leave (you can also take an additional 16 weeks of optional unpaid leave). If possible, you will be supported to complete your 52 weeks of paid work on the same or another project when you finish your maternity leave.
You should discuss with your sponsor the payment you qualify for while you are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit if you have enough PRSI contributions. Otherwise, if your spouse or partner is getting a social welfare payment, you may get a qualified adult increase on their payment. You cannot continue to use your affordable childcare scheme while you are on maternity leave.