The Government have announced that mothers of premature babies will receive additional maternity leave from 1st October 2017. Maternity leave is governed by the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 – 2004. At present, a pregnant employee is entitled to a basic entitlement of 26 weeks maternity leave, known as ordinary maternity leave, as well as an additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave, known as additional maternity leave.
Pregnant employees are required to take a core period of leave that includes two weeks before the end of the expected week of confinement and four weeks after birth. Expectant mothers are required to give their employers a minimum of four weeks’ written notice of their intention to take maternity leave.
Previously, in cases of premature birth, the employee was required to notify her employer in writing and the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave commenced from the date of birth. However as a result of the mother’s leave starting from the date of birth, by the time some women got to bring their baby home from the hospital, their ordinary maternity leave was almost over.
The new arrangement will mean additional maternity leave for mothers of premature babies. The additional period will be from the date of birth, up to the two core weeks, mothers are obliged to take before the week of confinement. These additional weeks will be added to the mother’s 26-week entitlement.
What Employers Should Be Aware Of
During maternity leave, employees have the right to benefit from their normal contractual terms and conditions of employment, with the exception of remuneration. This means that employees accrue annual leave and public holiday entitlements for their entire maternity leave. In cases of premature birth, employees will also enjoy the same entitlement.
The Department of Social Protection pay employees for the first 26 weeks of maternity leave, in some companies employers top up their employees’ maternity pay. In circumstances where employers are currently topping up maternity pay, it is advisable to do so for the additional leave taken due to a premature birth.
If you have any questions regarding additional maternity leave please don’t hesitate to contact the advice line on 01 886 0350