Citizens Information Centres (CICs) in Co. Meath deal with a lot of queries regarding maternity rights and entitlements. There is often a lot of confusion regarding what an expectant mother may be eligible for in relation to social welfare and employment rights. The pandemic has heightened this confusion as many have been temporarily laid off.
All expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland are eligible for free maternity care under The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme. Care will be divided between your GP and an obstetrician during your pregnancy. The number of appointments you receive will depend on whether this is your first or subsequent pregnancy. There are also check-ups at 2 weeks for baby and at 6 weeks for mother and baby.
There is free in-patient, out-patient and emergency care in public hospitals in relation to pregnancy and birth and you will not have to pay hospital charges. If you have your baby in hospital, you will receive a visit from the public health nurse (also free), normally within 72 hours of returning home from the hospital. If you have had a home birth or used the Domino Scheme, you will have already had a visit from the nurse. The public health nurse will also carry out free development checks on your baby.
Postnatal depression affects 10 to 15% of women within the first year of giving birth. Symptoms of postnatal depression may start as baby blues and then get progressively worse. If you think you are experiencing postnatal depression, it is vital that you ask for help. Contact your public health nurse or GP to talk about how you are feeling. You can also read about supports for postnatal depression on our website.
As an employee, you are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave, which may be covered by the Maternity Benefit payment, if you have enough PRSI contributions. You may also avail of a further 16 weeks unpaid leave. You are entitled to take paid time off for medical visits during the pregnancy, and up to 14 weeks after the pregnancy. You must give your employer two weeks’ notice of these visits. There is also an entitlement to paid time off for some (but not all) antenatal classes. There is no legal obligation on your employer to pay you while you are on maternity leave, this depends on your terms and conditions of employment.
This is payable if you are in employment within 16 weeks of the due date of your baby (this is important to note if you have been made redundant before your baby is due). You must have enough PRSI to qualify and it is paid for 26 weeks at a rate of €250 per week. Time spent on PUP and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will be counted as if you are still in employment. Maternity Benefit is also payable to those in self-employment if they satisfy the PRSI requirements. If you have adopted your child, you may be eligible for Adoptive Benefit, which is similar to Maternity Benefit. It should be noted that these benefits do not apply to those who become parents through surrogacy
Lorraine Walsh, Development Manager, North Leinster Citizens Information Service/ Co. Meath stated, “The service has been dealing with a lot of queries regarding maternity leave and entitlements and added, “we are always here to help with such matters, our services are free and confidentiality is key for us.”