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February 7, 2023

Maternity Benefit in Ireland: Eligibility, Coverage, How to Apply

Maternity Benefit is a social welfare payment for employed or self-employed pregnant women in Ireland. Find out how to apply, its payment rates, and more.

Aine Kavanagh

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Aine Kavanagh

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Maternity Benefit in Ireland is a public health service payment for expecting mothers.

It ties in with maternity leave to provide monetary support to new mothers, reducing the burden of earning a paycheck while taking care of their newborn child.

But who qualifies for Maternity Benefit?

What coverage do you get?

How to apply for Maternity Benefit?

You have the questions. We have the answers.

What Is Maternity Benefit?


Maternity Benefit in Ireland is a social welfare payment to support employed women on maternity leave, per the Maternity Protection Act 1994.

This payment is covered by Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).

It helps working women make ends meet while they take care of their newborns, especially when their employers don’t offer paid maternity leave.

However, you can still receive this benefit if:

  • You are self-employed

  • You have recently ended your employment (no longer than 16 weeks before your due date).

All you need to do is apply within the stipulated time — which we’ll discuss next.

When Should You Apply for Maternity Benefit?

You must apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your maternity leave begins.

If you’re self-employed, you need to apply at least 12 weeks before your maternity leave.

Some employers may offer paid maternity leave in return for having the Maternity Benefit paid directly to them. Check your contract of employment to know if this or other maternity related clauses apply.

Who Can Qualify for Maternity Benefit?

You can qualify for Maternity Benefit if you fulfil ALL three of the following conditions:

1. You’re on Certified Maternity Leave from Work

To receive certified maternity leave from work:

You must include these forms when applying for Maternity Benefit.

2. You’re Covered by Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI)

To qualify for Maternity Benefit, you must be on insurable employment (one liable for social insurance contributions) up to the first day of your maternity leave.

What’s more?

You should have a certain number of paid PRSI contributions and fall under one of these PRSI contribution classes — A, E, H, and S:

  • Class A: People employed under a contract in industrial, commercial, and service sectors earning €38 or more per week. This includes public and civil servants employed from 6 April 1995.

  • Class E: Religious ministers employed by the Church of Ireland Representative Body.

  • Class H: Non-commissioned officers and enlisted defence personnel.

  • Class S: Self-employed people — including people doing business independently, certain company directors, and people with investment and rental income.

How Many PRSI Contributions Do You Need?

If you’re employed or recently unemployed, you need to fulfil ONE of these conditions:

  • A minimum of 39 weeks of paid PRSI contributions for the 12-month period before the first day of your maternity leave.

  • A minimum of 39 weeks of PRSI paid since first starting work. Plus, at least 39 weeks of PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year (two years before the benefit year) or the tax year after the relevant tax year.

    For example, if your maternity leave is in 2023, 2021 is the relevant tax year, and 2022 is the year after the relevant tax year.

  • A minimum of 26 weeks of PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year plus the tax year before the relevant tax year.

In this case, if you’re going on maternity leave in 2023, the year before the relevant tax year is 2020.

If you’re self-employed, you need either:

  • A minimum of 52 weeks of PRSI contributions paid at Class S (social insurance at 4% on all calculated income) in the relevant tax year, OR

  • A minimum of 52 weeks of paid PRSI contributions at Class S in the tax year before or after the relevant tax year. For example, if you’re going on maternity leave in 2023, 2021 is the relevant tax year, 2020 is the year before, and 2022 is the year after.

Hold on. We’re not done yet.

You could be eligible for Maternity Benefit if you were employed in a country covered by European Union (EU) regulations or the UK.

You can add your insurance record in that country to your PRSI contributions.

The catch?

You must currently be on insurable employment in Ireland and have paid your most recent PRSI contribution.

Also, PRSI Class S contributions for a particular year aren’t awarded until you’ve paid the income tax due for that year.

So, you must pay your PRSI contributions and income tax to qualify for Maternity Benefit.

Moreover, members of Defence Forces that pay PRSI Class H contributions cannot avail Maternity Benefit while in service.

3. You Start Your Maternity Leave Within the Applicable Period

You must start your period of maternity leave at least two weeks (but no earlier than sixteen weeks) before the end of the week in which your baby is due.

Confused?

We’ll break it down with an example.

Suppose your baby is due on Thursday, 16 November 2023. Then the end of the week is Sunday, 19 November.

That means the latest you can start maternity leave to qualify for Maternity Benefit is two weeks before Sunday, the 19th, i.e., Monday, 6 November 2023.

The two weeks are based on the end of the week your baby is due.

Similarly, your maternity leave (or the day your employment ends) should not start earlier than 16 weeks (Monday, 24 May 2023) from the end of the week in which your baby is due.

We’ve covered who can qualify for Maternity Benefit.

But how much does Maternity Benefit pay?

Maternity Benefit Payment Rates

Maternity Benefit is paid each week in advance, but the rate can depend on certain factors:

  • If you’re eligible for full-rate Maternity Benefit, you’ll receive €262 a week for 26 weeks (156 days).

  • You’ll only be entitled to half-rate Maternity Benefit if you’re on other social welfare payments. These social welfare payments include:

    • One-Parent Family Payment

    • Widow’s and Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory and Non-Contributory) Pension

    • Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance

    • Deserted Wife’s Benefit or Allowance

    • A Surviving Civil Partner or Widow’s Widower’s Pension (under the Death Benefit Occupational Injuries Scheme)

  • You can get full-rate Maternity Benefit and half-rate Carer’s Allowance if you provide full-time care to another person. You can also get full-rate Maternity Benefit and Working Family Payment (WFP) simultaneously.

  • If you have dependants, the Maternity Benefit rate paid to you would equal the rate of your Illness Benefit.

  • If you’re an EU, EAA (European Economic Area), or Switzerland citizen, you can get Maternity Benefit for any time of your maternity leave spent in those countries. You can also get Maternity Benefit while travelling abroad (outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland) for a maximum of 6 weeks.

  • If you’re not an EU, EAA, or Switzerland citizen, you can travel anywhere outside Ireland for a maximum of 6 weeks without affecting your Maternity Benefit.

But remember: You’ll have to pay tax on Maternity Benefit payments.

However, you won’t have to pay the Universal Social Charge (USC) or social insurance (PRSI).

Moreover, you must notify the Maternity Benefit Department before leaving the country if you're traveling abroad.

When Is Maternity Benefit Paid?

Maternity Benefit payment is paid over 26 weeks, starting from the first week of maternity leave.

The payment is made in advance for a six-day period (excluding Sunday) and is credited directly into your bank account.

But look:

As an employer, you wouldn’t want your pregnant employees to depend solely on their Maternity Benefit, right?

That’s where Yonder can help.

Yonder lets you provide health insurance to your employees effortlessly. Forget the broker hassles, paperwork, or admin overheads!

Once you decide your contribution, employees can choose the health packages they need — including add-ons like a maternity extra.

How Long Is Maternity Benefit Paid?

Here’s how long you can get Maternity Benefit:

A. Full-Term Pregnancies

Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks or 156 days — excluding Sundays.

B. Premature Births

If your baby is born before the day you were to start your maternity leave, you get the benefit for 26 weeks from the birth date plus an extra period.

What’s the extra period?

The extra period will equal the number of days between your baby’s actual date of birth and the previous maternity leave start date.

Maternity leave is extended for this extra period.

In the case of premature births, you need a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or a hospital letter confirming the actual date of birth and expected birth date.

You must submit the document to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to bring forward the start date of your Maternity Benefit.

For the extra Maternity Benefit, you need to submit a letter from the hospital confirming the date of birth and the gestational age at which your baby was born. You must send this to the DSP before the first 26 weeks of Maternity Benefit end.

C. Stillbirths and Miscarriages

If you have a miscarriage after the 24th week of pregnancy or stillbirth with a birth weight of at least 500 grams, you could take up to 26 weeks of maternity leave.

You could also avail of 26 weeks of Maternity Benefit if you meet the PSRI contribution conditions.

In the case of stillbirth, you need a letter from your doctor confirming the expected birth date, the actual birth or miscarriage date, and the number of weeks of pregnancy.

You must submit this letter with the MB1 application form to claim the benefit.

D. Hospitalisation of the Baby

If your child’s in the hospital, you can postpone the last 12 weeks of Maternity Benefit for up to six months.

But to do so, you must have received Maternity Benefit payments for at least 14 weeks and taken at least four weeks of leave before the baby was born.

You also need to apply to postpone your Maternity Benefit.

The benefit will restart when you submit your child’s discharge papers and your employer certifies that you’re entitled to restart your postponed maternity leave.

E. Returning to Work

While on Maternity Benefit, you can do voluntary or public representative work and courses of education.

However, the payments will stop if you return to insurable (paid) employment.

To return to employment earlier than the date mentioned in your application, you must inform the Maternity Benefit Section at least two weeks before your return to work date.

What is the Maternity Benefit Section?

Keep reading to find out.

How to Apply for Maternity Benefit?

As mentioned earlier, you have to send your Maternity Benefit application form at least 6-12 weeks (depending on your employment) before you intend to go on maternity leave.

Follow these steps to send the Maternity Benefit application form:

You can apply online for Maternity Benefit at MyWelfare.ie (you’ll need a verified MyGovID account).

Fill in the form and upload the required documents. Once you’ve successfully applied, you can track the progress of your claim on the website.

Alternatively:

Send in a physical application with the relevant docs to:

Maternity Benefit Section

Address: Department of Social Protection, McCarter’s Road, Ardaravan, Buncrana, Co. Donegal, F93 CH79

Number: 01 4715898

LoCall: 0818 690690

Want to re-appeal your declined Maternity Benefit application?

Send an appeal to the address mentioned above or write to [email protected] However, you need to appeal within 21 days of the original decision.

What Other Benefits Come with Having a Baby?

Besides Maternity Benefit, here are other entitlements you may receive when you become a parent:

  • Antenatal classes and medical appointments: You can take paid leave from work to attend antenatal classes or go for medical appointments before your baby is born.

  • Health and safety benefit: You can get health and safety leave from work if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But this is only applicable if your employers cannot remove any risk to your health or assign you alternative risk-free duties.

  • Unpaid maternity leave: You’re entitled to up to 16 weeks of extra maternity leave that isn’t covered by Maternity Benefit.

    Once you apply for unpaid leave, it begins right after your 26 weeks of maternity leave. You can also get social insurance credit for each week of unpaid leave you take.

  • Time off for breastfeeding: You can take time off work to breastfeed if you’ve given birth during the last six months. This only applies if your workplace doesn’t have facilities for breastfeeding.

    You’ll be paid full-time while working reduced hours, comprising an hour off each day. However, you must notify your employer of your intention to breastfeed at work at least four weeks before you return from maternity leave.

  • Adoptive leave: You can take 24 weeks of paid leave when you adopt a child. You’re also entitled to 16 weeks of extra unpaid adoptive leave. Plus, you can take paid time off to attend preparation classes and pre-adoption meetings with social workers.

  • Paternity leave: A father, partner of a mother, or parent of a donor-conceived child can take two weeks off within the first six months of the birth of your baby.

  • Paternity Benefit: You’re eligible for two weeks of paid Paternity Benefit if you’re on paternity leave. It’s applicable at a rate of €262 per week.

  • Parental leave: Parents (or guardians) of children under 12 years can take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave. This leave applies to parents and guardians who return to work.

  • Parent’s leave: Parents of children under two years of age (or adoptive children under two years of placement) can take seven weeks of paid leave in addition to their annual leave and sick leave.

With the maternity extra on Yonder’s Irish Life Health plans, you get access to a range of these additional benefits like:

  • Credit towards antenatal classes.

  • Breastfeeding consultancy.

  • Baby massage courses.

  • Postnatal domestic support.

  • Maternity mental health support, etc.

Is Fertility Treatment Covered Under Maternity Benefit?

Unfortunately, no.

The Health Service Executive (Ireland’s publicly funded healthcare system) does NOT cover fertility treatment (think: egg freezing) or assisted human reproduction services like IVF.

The good news? You can claim tax relief on costs from IVF treatments.

Moreover, approved or prescribed drugs used in fertility treatments are covered under the Drugs Payment Scheme, reducing their costs to €80 per month.

Alternatively, some insurance providers provide coverage for fertility treatments, depending on the plan.

For example, the fertility extra on Yonder’s Irish Life Health plans give you access to a range of benefits, including:

  • Infertility benefit (cover for IVF, IUI, ICSI)

  • Egg freezing

  • Sperm freezing

  • AMH (Anti-MĂĽllerian Hormone) Fertility test €50 contribution

  • His & Hers Fertility Screening Tests

  • Maternity mental health support

But can maternity leave or benefit put you at risk of losing your job?

Employment Rights During Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is protective leave.

So you can’t be made redundant while on maternity or additional maternity leave.

What can you do if you’ve been dismissed because you’re pregnant?

If your company selects you for redundancy because you’re pregnant, you can appeal a case of unfair dismissal.

But there’s a catch!

If your selection for redundancy was fair, you can be made redundant before you go on maternity leave or when you return to work.

Streamline Employee Benefits with Yonder

Maternity Benefit is an irrefutable claim for any mother (who meets the required criteria) in Ireland.

But not everyone’s well-versed about the benefits they’re due, nor how to manage them.

Thankfully, you can leave employee health insurance and retirement benefits to Yonder.

And on top of Ireland’s Maternity Benefit, Yonder lets you provide additional maternity care packages to your team.

So what are you waiting for?

Bring Yonder to your workplace and provide the core benefits your employees need.

Aine Kavanagh

Article written by

Aine Kavanagh

👋🏻 Hi I'm Aine, Head of Customer Success at Yonder. Whether you're a Yonder customer, a Yonder user, or you're just browsing, I hope to help educate and empower those who want to know more about owning their own benefits, and building financial autonomy 📚

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