**** Budget 2013 announced changes to maternity leave for teachers. Click here for more information. The Department of Education & Skills have recently issued an updated circular letter in accordance with budgetary measures. For full details on circular letter 0009/2013 please click here. ****

 

The Scheme of Maternity Leave for Teachers applies to all pregnant teachers. Where a woman has been appointed for a fixed term and her employment would have been terminated on expiry of that term had she not been on maternity leave, the period of maternity leave shall not extend beyond the day on which the employment expires. The granting or taking of maternity leave or additional maternity leave should not affect the day of termination of a fixed term appointment, neither should it affect the issue of renewing the appointment should that arise.

Application Forms

Teachers should ensure that they get the relevant application forms from both the Department of Education and Skills (see Department circular 0009/2013) and the Department of Social Protection (MB10 Form) from either their Principal or the relevant government Department and that they are returned at least six weeks prior to the commencement of the maternity leave to ensure that payments are made on time.  The forms are also available on the relevant government websites at www.education.ie and www.welfare.ie

Claiming Maternity Benefit

From the 1st January 2009 teachers paying Class A PRSI must complete Part 2 "Payment Details" of the Department of Social Protection MB10 application form - teachers no longer sign the authorisation for the Department of Social Protection to pay the benefit directly to the employer (see Department circular 0052/2009).  The completed MB10 form should be forwarded to the Maternity Benefit Section, Department of Social Protection, McCarter's Road, Ardaravan, Buncranc, Co Donegal (phone: LoCall 1890 690 690 or (01) 471 5898).  The maternity benefit payment will then be paid directly to the teacher's bank account.  Salary payable from the Department of Education and Skills during the period of paid maternity leave will be reduced by the amount of maternity benefit payable.  From January 6th 2014 the minimum and maximum rates of payments for Maternity Benefit will be standardised at Ä230 per week for new applicants. This will result in an increase of up to Ä12.20 per week for those receiving less than Ä230 per week and a reduction of up to Ä32 per week for all other claimants. It is important that all application forms (ML and MB10) are submitted in time, i.e. 6 weeks prior to commencement of leave if possible, in order to facilitate timely deductions from salary and to avoid an accumulation of deduction arrears. 

Non-Permanent Teachers

Non-Permanent teachers may be entitled to maternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection. The weekly rate of maternity benefit is calculated by dividing your gross income in the Relevant Tax Year by the number of weeks you actually worked in that year.  The rate of Maternity Benefit is 80% of this amount, subject to a standardised payment of Ä230 per week. This rate is effective from 6th January 2014.

To qualify for Maternity Benefit you must satisfy one of the following PRSI contribution conditions. You must have:

(a) at least 39 weeks PRSI* paid in the 12 month period before the first day of your maternity leave;
or
(b) at least 39 weeks PRSI* paid since first starting work and at least 39 weeks PRSI paid or credited in the Relevant Tax Year.
or
(c) 26 weeks PRSI* paid in the Relevant Tax Year and 26 weeks PRSI paid in the Tax Year prior to the Relevant Tax Year.

* Only PRSI CLasses A, E and H count.

The Relevant Tax Year

For claims made in 2014 the relevant tax year is 2012.  

Procedure for Taking Maternity Leave

A teacher who intends going on maternity leave should submit the relevant application forms along with a medical certificate confirming pregnancy and stating the expected week of confinement. The form and medical certificate must be submitted at least six weeks before the date on which the teacher intends to go on maternity leave. If a woman who intends to claim maternity benefit under the Social Welfare Acts fails to submit a medical certificate on time, she may lose entitlement to maternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection.

A minimum period of maternity leave must be taken, beginning not later than two weeks before the end of the expected week of confinement and ending not earlier than four weeks after the end of the expected week of confinement.  A maximum of 22 weeks leave may be taken prior to the end of the the week in which your baby is due, i.e.the expectant mother must be a minimum of 24 weeks pregnant.

At the end of paid maternity leave a teacher will have the option of taking:

(a) up to 16 consecutive weeks additional unpaid maternity leave, or

(b) leave of absence, without pay, to the end of the school year (31st August), subject to the discretion of the managerial authority concerned (this is not a statutory entitlement).

Leave Overlapping with Holidays (until May 1st 2013)

As a consequence of Budget 2012 where paid maternity leave overlaps with school holidays, up until May 1st 2013, a teacher will be entitled to leave in lieu with pay for the holiday days overlapped, subject to a maximum of 30 days. The overlapped days for which the teacher will be entitled to leave in lieu are general school holiday days (e.g. mid-term breaks, summer holidays, etc), including public and church holidays (where applicable) and other school closings, except that any day that counts towards the number of days of school operation is excluded.

Leave in lieu of overlapped maternity leave as set out above will be taken by the teacher so as to follow on immediately from the end of the period of statutory unpaid maternity leave, or from the end of the school holiday period concerned, if the maternity leave expires within such holiday period.

Statutory Annual Leave

In accordance with circular letter 0009/2013, a teacher has a Statutory entitlement  to 20 days annual leave and 9 public holidays, employees who work less than full hours are entitled to annual leave on a pro rata basis. Any entitlements in respect of public holidays occuring while on maternity leave will be addressed by additional annual leave. These annual leave entitlements are to be taken on existing school closure days that occur in the leave year in question i.e. both before and after the maternity leave period. Annual leave entitlements are to be taken at a time outside of the period of maternity leave. When availing of statutory maternity leave and if there are not enough school closure days in the leave year to absorb all annual leave entitlements, it is permitted to take the necessary days immediately before the maternity leave in the same year. Alternatively, teachers will be permitted to carry the balance forward to the following leave year but must then take these days during school closures. Teachers who resign/ retire or their employment ceases may be entitled to additional payment in lieu of their accrued leave.

Calculating your Maternity Leave

1. Decide on which 26 weeks you will take for paid maternity leave: 

  • you must take a minimum of two weeks before end of week of your expected week of confinement (a maximum of 22 weeks leave may be taken prior to the end of the the week in which your baby is due)
  • you must take a minimum of four weeks after end of your expected week of confinement.

2. You may then add on up to 16 consecutive weeks of additional unpaid leave.

3. Calculate how many days of your paid maternity leave overlaps with days on which your school is closed for holidays? (Please note: Days in lieu can only be accrued where you have started your Statutory 26 weeks prior to May 1st 2013 and holidays fall in that period).

4. Add these overlapped days, up to a maximum of 30, onto the end of your maternity leave (or to the end of your statutory unpaid leave if you decide to take all or any of your 16 weeks entitlement) or onto the end of the school holiday period if maternity leave expires during a holiday period. e.g. if 15 days of your maternity leave overlap with 15 days of your summer holidays you are entitled to leave for the first 15 open school days after your maternity leave ends (except where these days fall during the 12 state exam days). 

5. You may apply to take unpaid leave of absence to the end of the school year (31st August).

Maternity Leave Must be Taken in the Following Sequence:

  • Paid maternity leave (26 weeks)
  • Statutory unpaid maternity leave (up to 16 weeks)
  • Unpaid leave to the end of the school year (31st August)

Posts of Responsibility

A teacher with a Post of Responsibility who is on paid maternity leave retains her post of responsibility allowance. Payment of an 'Acting-up' allowance will be made to a teacher who carries out the duties of such a post holder provided that the following conditions are met:

(i) That a minimum period of one month is involved and that the school management certifies that the duties were carried out.
(ii) Payment of the allowance will be made only where the post is warranted by reference to the points rating of the school (i.e. supernumerary posts are excluded from this arrangement).
(iii) Certification by the school management that the duties cannot be distributed among the other holders of posts of responsibility in the school.
(iv) Payment is retrospective after one month.

Replacement Teacher

A substitute teacher can be employed by the Board of Management / Management Authority to cover paid maternity leave / leave in lieu and unpaid maternity leave.  Contracts awarded to cover absences outlined in the Maternity Leave circular should make clear reference to the fact that there are circumstances where the replacement appointment may have to be terminated in the event of the absent teacher returning to duties earlier than initially expected (e.g. an absent teacher postpones part of the maternity leave due to the hospitalisation of the newborn baby).

Sick Leave

Maternity leave will be granted irrespective of a teacher's sick leave record and will not reckon as sick leave. Subject to the normal regulations, sick leave may be allowed during pregnancy. Sick leave following maternity leave will be allowed only where the school authority is satisfied that the teacher intends to return to her position when fit to do so. 

Pregnancy Related Sick Leave

A pregnant teacher may qualify for pregnancy related sick leave and this period may be discounted in determining a teacher's entitlement to paid sick leave. This only applies to pregnancy related sick leave during pregnancy. Teachers requesting information on what constitutes pregnancy related sick leave should contact the Leave Section of ASTI Head Office at 01 6040188.

In accordance with the new circular on maternity leave, cl 0009/2013, employers are permitted, upon receipt of a medical certificate stating the illness to be pregnancy related, to enter the absence on the OLCS as "pregnancy related illness". This arrangment applies only to illness occuring during pregnancy and before maternity leave commences. In the case of a teacher who is approaching her maximum entitlement to paid sick leave under normal rules any period of pregnancy related sick leave may be discounted. In order to confirm the absence was indeed pregnancy related, the employer should seek the advice of the OHS. The employer, in making a referral to the OHS, should follow the Standard Operating Procedures Manual.

Termination of Additional Maternity Leave in Event of Sickness of Mother

If a teacher has made an application for statutory additional unpaid leave and subsequently becomes ill, she is entitled to cancel that application in writing, not later than 4 weeks before such leave is due to commence. If the 4 week deadline has passed the entitlement to cancel the leave has been lost. However, a formal request can still be made to cancel such leave in favour of a certified sick leave absence. 

Approval of such a request to terminate the leave is at the discretion of the Employer. If approved, the Employer and the teacher must agree the date for any such termination of the leave. Teh date agreed can not be earlier than the first day of certified illness and not later than when the terminated leave would otherwise have ended. The normal procedures in relation to sick leave then apply. The teacher will not be entitled subsequently to take the additional unpaid maternity leave or any part of it not taken at the time of commencement of sick leave.

To facilitate necessary pay adjustments the Department/ VEC must be notified immediately that the teacher is now on sick leave.

Leave to Attend Clinics

Time off may be allowed for attendance at ante-natal and post-natal clinics. Evidence of appointment or attendance at the clinic will be required by the school authority and two weeks notice of the intention to avail of such leave should be given.  Where, for urgent medical reasons, it is not possible to comply with these requirements evidence of appointment or attendance at the clinic must be provided not later than one week after the appointment in question.  The right to attend medical appointments related to post-natal care extends only to the timeframe of within 14 weeks of the birth of your child.

Leave to Attend Antenatal Classes

Section 8 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 allows pregnant women to take paid time off work to attend one set of antenatal classes (but not the last three of the series of classes as these would normally occur after maternity leave has started). This right to attend only one set of antenatal classes (except the last three in a set) covers all pregnancies while in employment. This does not mean you have the right to paid time off work to attend antenatal classes each time you are pregnant in employment. Instead, the entitlement covers one set of classes over all your pregnancies. If for any reason you are unable to attend some classes due to reasons beyond your control (i.e., premature birth, illness, miscarriage, stillbirth) you can carry over your entitlement to paid time off work to attend any untaken classes to your subsequent pregnancies (except the last three in a set).

In order to take this time off work, the employee must notify their employer in writing at least two weeks before classes commence, outlining the dates and times of the classes. Employers can request written evidence of the classes. This new provision allowing expectant parents to take time off work to attend antenatal classes only came into effect on 18th October, 2004.

Expectant Fathers

Expectant fathers now have a once-off right to paid time off work to attend the two antenatal classes immediately prior to the birth. This entitlement does not extend to every pregnancy. The provision for paid time off work to attend ante-natal classes for expectant parents was brought into effect in SI 653 of 2004 Maternity Protection (Time off for Ante-Natal Classes) Regulations 2004.

In order to take this time off work, the employee must notify their employer in writing at least two weeks before classes commence, outlining the dates and times of the classes. Employers can request written evidence of the classes. This new provision allowing expectant parents to take time off work to attend antenatal classes only came into effect on 18th October, 2004.

Paternity Leave

Fathers are entitled to three days' paternity leave, with substitution cover.  This leave must be taken by the father within the first four weeks of the birth. For full details please see circular letter PPT 23-01.

Fatherís Leave: Entitlement of male teachers to leave in the event of the death of the mother while on maternity leave

In the event of the death of the mother within 40 weeks of the birth of a living child, a male teacher who is the father of the child is entitled to leave as follows:


(a) if the mother dies before the end of the 24th week following the week of the birth of her child, the father is entitled to paid leave up to the 24th week. At the end of this period he is entitled to apply for a further 16 consecutive weeks additional unpaid leave commencing immediately


or


(b) if the mother dies after the 24th week following the week of the birth of her child, the father is entitled to unpaid leave up to the 40th week following the week of the birth of the child.


The leave in lieu entitlement and sequencing arrangement outlined above will also apply to the fatherís leave:


(a) Fatherís Leave (the transfer to the father of any balance remaining of the motherís maternity leave entitlement up to the 24th week following the week of birth)
(b) Statutory additional unpaid fatherís leave (the transfer to the father of any balance remaining of the motherís additional unpaid leave up to the 40th week following the week of birth)
(c) Non-statutory additional unpaid fatherís leave to end of school year (Aug 31st)

The leave should normally commence within 7 days of the event which has created the fatherís entitlement to the leave but the Employer should exercise discretion appropriate to the individual circumstances. To avail of his leave entitlement the father in this circumstance may simply apply in writing to his Employer. As soon as is reasonably practicable, the Employer should be provided with a copy of the death certificate of the mother and a copy of the birth certificate of the child.

Postponement of Maternity Leave or Additional Maternity Leave in Event of Hospitalisation of Child

With the agreement of the employer, in the event of the hospitalisation of the child the employee may return to work after a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave (at least 4 weeks of which must be after the end of the week of confinement). Where an employee is on maternity leave or additional maternity leave and the child in connection with whose birth she is on leave is hospitalised she can request in writing her employer to postpone:

  • maternity leave
  • statutory additional unpaid maternity leave 
  • father's  leave  
  • statutory additional unpaid father's leave

The application for postponement must be in writing and accompanied by certification from the hospital in which the child is hospitalised. The Employer must notify the teacher in writing as soon as possible of its decision. If the leave is postponed, the Employer and the teacher must agree the date of return to work.

The Department/ VEC, and the Department of Social Protection, must be notified immediately if the teacher is to return to work to facilitate pay adjustment, cease any benefit from the Department of Social Protection, and the finalisation of payment to the replacement teacher.

Where the employer has agreed to postpone the leave then the employee shall be entitled to take the remaining maternity or additional leave in one continuous period commencing not later than 7 days after the discharge of the child from the hospital. The teacher must provide the Employer with a letter or other appropriate document from the hospital, or the child's doctor, confirming the child's discharge date. 

The maximum period of postponement of leave is six months. 

If the teacher becomes ill having returned to work and before s/he has taken the postponed leave, s/he will be considered to have started the postponed leave on the first day of absence due to illness unless the teacher notifies the Employer that s/he does not wish to begin the postponed leave. If this happens s/he will forfeit the postponed leave and the absence will be treated as sick leave. The normal procedures in relation to sick leave should then be followed, including the furnishing of a medical certificate where appropriate.

Entitlement to Time off or Reduction of Working Hours for Breastfeeding

A teacher who is breastfeeding, within a twenty six week period after the birth of her child, is entitled to time off, one hour per day, without loss of pay as a breastfeeding break. The time off may be taken as follows:

  • one break of 60 minutes
  • two breaks of 30 minutes each
  • three breaks of 20 minutes each

The teacher must notify the Board of Management in writing of her application for such breaks four weeks in advance of her return to work from maternity leave / additional unpaid maternity leave. A copy of the birth certificate of the child must be submitted with the application for breastfeeding breaks. It is a matter for the Principal teacher to make the necessary arrangements with the teacher to facilitate the taking of the breastfeeding breaks. There is no provision for substitute cover for such breaks.

For the purpose of giving certainty the Act defines breastfeeding as breastfeeding a child or expressing breast milk and feeding it to a child immediately or storing it for the purpose of feeding it to the child at a later time.

Fixed Term/ Fixed Purpose Appointments

Maternity related entitlements shall cease on expiry of the contract unless that contract is followed directly by a 'back to back' contract in an approved teaching post funded by monies provided by the Oireachtas. Where a fixed term/ fixed purpose contract has ended and there is no 'back to back' contract then any remaining 'maternity leave in lieu' which has accrued during the term of the contract (up until May 1st 2013) qualifies for 'payment in lieu', up to the agreed maximum of 30 days in lieu.

Returning to Work

The employer should provide the absent employee with a written statement of their absence and expected date of resumption of duties. To exercise the right to resume work after maternity leave, the necessary prior written notification and confirmation must be given in writing to the employer not later than 4 weeks before the date on which the teacher intends to return to work.