Maternity leave in Ireland

Your rights and entitlements under Irish employment legislation

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The rights of a pregnant worker in Ireland are laid down in the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004.

These acts state the statutory minimum entitlements in respect of maternity at work and maternity leave. These rights apply to all pregnant workers. It does not depend on length of service or the number of hours worked per week.

You must notify your employer in writing at least four weeks before the date on which you intend to return to work.






How much leave am I entitled to?

You can take a minimum of 26 weeks maternity leave plus 16 weeks unpaid additional maternity leave. The unpaid maternity commences immediately after the end of maternity leave.

The maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 states that 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 after.

Under maternity benefit rules you must take at least two and not more than sixteen weeks before the end of the week your baby is due.


Medical visits and Ante-natal classes

Once you have confirmed your pregnancy, you can take reasonable time off to attend medical visits related to your pregnancy. You should notify your employer in writing of your pregnancy, enclosing medical evidence, and stating that you will be requiring time off to attend ante natal appointments. No specified time is mentioned in the act. You can take such time as is reasonably necessary to attend the medical appointment. This includes travel time.

You need to give 2 weeks written notice of each appointment and your employer can ask to see the appointment card.

You can take paid time off to attend some ante-natal classes. Excluding the last three classes of the set , you can take time off to attend one set of ante-natal classes.

Fathers are entitled to paid time off to attend the last two classes in the set of ante-natal classes.


Payment and benefit

There is no statutory obligation on employers to pay employees on maternity leave. It may be part of your contract of employment, and you should check that to see if it applies.

You may be entitled to maternity benefit if you have the requisite amount of PRSI contributions.


Can I take additional maternity leave?

Yes. This begins immediately following the maternity leave period end. You will not receive maternity benefit and the employer is not obliged to pay you, unless this is covered specifically in your written terms and conditions of employment.

If you become ill during this additional maternity, you can ask your employer to treat the additional maternity period as being at an end. If they agree, you will then be on sick leave. Your additional maternity period ends and cannot be reinstated.


Are public holidays included in maternity leave?

You are entitled to the benefit of public holidays while on maternity leave. You are entitled to leave in respect of any public holidays which arise while you are on maternity leave or additional maternity leave.The time spent on maternity leave counts as working time when calculating entitlement to public holidays and annual leave


Stillbirth and miscarriages

If the stillbirth or miscarriage occurs after the 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to full and additional maternity leave.


Health and safety leave

Employers are required to identify any risk to which employees covered by the Maternity Protection Act might be exposed. They must remove this risk or move the employee to a workplace where the risks do not occur.

If neither of this options is applicable , then the employer must give the employee health and safety leave from work. This leave can continue until the beginning of maternity leave. The first three weeks of wages must be paid by the employer in full. Following that period Health and safety benefit may be paid, depending on certain criteria and PRSI payments.  More


Return to work

You are entitled to return to work after maternity leave, to the position you held prior to going on leave. If it is not reasonable practicable for your employer to offer you this position, then you are entitled to one of at least equal status, pay and conditions. If pay or conditions have improved while you were on maternity leave, then you must be offered the improvements.

If you have been dismissed after returning to work following maternity leave you should seek advice from one of our experienced experts as you may have been unfairly dismissed. There are strict time limits so you should contact us without delay.


Time off for breastfeeding

If you have given birth within the previous six months then you can take time off in order to breastfeed. You can breastfeed in the workplace, where facilities are provided. If facilities are not provided you can have your working hours reduced, while maintaining your full pay.

You can take one hour with pay off work each day to facilitate breastfeeding. This time can be broken into one 60 minute, two 30 minute or three 20 minute breaks.

Part time workers are calculated pro rata.

You must notify your employer in writing of your intention to breastfeed at work, at least four weeks before the date on which you intend to return to work from maternity leave. More


Fathers entitlement to maternity leave

A father is entitled to maternity leave if the mother dies within 40 weeks of the birth. See also Paternity leave 


Postponement of maternity leave

Section 7 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 sets out the grounds for postponement of maternity leave. This can occur if your child is hospitalised. Your employer can refuse to postpone the maternity leave.


Employment rights during maternity

You cannot be made redundant while on maternity leave or additional maternity leave. If you are selected for redundancy because you are pregnant, you may qualify to bring a case for unfair dismissal.

If a genuine redundancy situation exists and your selection was fair you may be made redundant when you return to work, or before you go on maternity leave.

Maternity leave is protective leave.

Your employment rights and benefits are maintained while you are on maternity leave or availing of time off to attend ante-natal classes or for breastfeeding purposes under the act. You are still in the employment of the employer and this period is counted when making calculations regarding your rights and benefits. This does not breach continuity of employment.

Other reckonable service periods apply such as parental leave and carers leave .


Notify in time






You must give your employer the following (as it applies to you) :

  1. At least four weeks notice of your intention to take maternity leave

  2. a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy

  3. A further four weeks notice, if you intend to take the additional 16 weeks maternity leave. You can give this notice at the same time as number 1 above.

  4. You must give your employer at least four weeks written notice of your intention to return to work.

  5. You must notify your employer in writing of your intention to breastfeed at work, at least four weeks before the date on which you intend to return to work from maternity leave.

If you do not give the required notices within the statutory time periods, you risk losing your rights.


  Guide to the Parental Leave Acts, Download here

  Guide to the Maternity Protection Acts, Download here


For advice on employment law in Ireland get in touch with us using the orange Yes! Tell Me More button below. 



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