A guide to maternity leave for second-level teachers in Ireland.
All pregnant teachers, who give birth to a living child, or who reach their 24th week of pregnancy, are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave and 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave. The teacher may also be entitled to Extended Maternity Leave for Premature Birth (where applicable).
Maternity leave will ordinarily begin on such day as the pregnant teacher selects, unless medically certified that the leave should commence on a particular date. However, the commencement date must not be later than 2 weeks before the end of the week of the baby's expected birth and four weeks must be taken after the end of the week of the baby's birth. For these purposes, Saturday is regarded as the end of the week (ie: count your weeks commencing on a Sunday and ending on a Saturday)
If the birth occurs in a week before a teacher has commenced her maternity leave then the maternity leave must commence immediately and the employer must be informed.
In the event of a stillbirth, or miscarriage, any time after the 24th week of pregnancy, or where the child has a birth weight of at least 500 grammes, full Maternity Leave entitlements apply.
Extended Maternity Leave and Benefit for Premature Birth
The Maternity Protection Acts, as amended provide for extended Maternity Leave in the case of a premature birth. This extended leave is in addition to the 26 weeks paid statutory Maternity Leave.
Extended Maternity Leave for Premature Birth is the period between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and 2 weeks before the end of the week in which the baby was due.
The extended Maternity Leave for Premature Birth will commence at the end of the standard 26 week period of paid statutory Maternity Leave.
The teacher should:
- Contact Maternity Benefits section of DEASP at the earliest opportunity but no later than the end of the 26th week of statutory Maternity leave in order to claim any additional Benefit due to the premature birth
- Provide the DEASP with a letter from the Hospital (or a birth certificate) confirming the child's actual date of birth and the number of weeks gestation at which the child was born. The DEASP will assess claim and confirm in writing if there is any additional entitlement to Maternity Benefit due.
- Provide the employer with a copy of the DEASP confirmation letter.
The employer then contacts the Department/ETB with details of the premature birth. Based on this information, the Paymaster will calculate any entitlement to extended Maternity Leave due to Premature Birth.
Statutory Additional Unpaid Leave
Commencing on the day immediately following completion of paid maternity leave, a teacher has the option to take a maximum of 16 consecutive weeks statutory additional unpaid maternity leave.
A teacher who avails of statutory additional unpaid maternity leave may be entitled to receive PRSI credits.
Application forms for Maternity Leave Credits are available from the DSP.
Non Statutory Additional Unpaid Leave to the end of the school year.
A teacher who, on completion of maternity leave and statutory additional unpaid maternity leave may apply for non-statutory additional unpaid maternity leave to the end of the school year. In the context of this leave the end of the school year is taken to mean August 31st.
This leave is not a statutory entitlement and is subject to obtaining written sanction from the employer at least six weeks in advance of an intention to avail of this leave.
Sequence in which leave must be taken
a. Maternity Leave (26 weeks)
b. Extended Statutory Maternity Leave for Premature birth, where applicable.
c. Any statutory additional unpaid maternity leave (maximum of 16 weeks)
d. Non-statutory additional unpaid maternity leave to the end of the school year (to Aug 31st)
Application for all types of maternity leave both paid and unpaid should be made by teachers to their employer at least 6 weeks in advance of commencement of the leave. The application form should be submitted along with a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and stating the date of the baby's expected birth.
Employers application form is located at Circular 0054/2019 Leave Schemes - Chapter Two - Appendix A.
In order to claim maternity benefit the teacher is responsible for completion of the Department of Social Protection form (MB1/MB2 Form) and should ensure the completed form is submitted directly to the DSP at least six weeks prior to commencement of the leave.
The completed MB1/MB2 should not be sent to the Department of Education and Skills.
Maternity benefit payment is treated as taxable income.
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.
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;
(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.
(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
Statutory Annual Leave / Public Holiday Entitlement
The statutory entitlement to annual leave is 20 days plus public holidays, as teacher holidays exceed the statutory entitlement the Department of Education's obligation to give back days in lieu for annual leave and public holidays is normally met through existing school closures.
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.
Time off for ante-natal care appointments, post natal care appointments and attendance at ante-natal classes
Pregnant teachers are entitled to time off work, without loss of pay, to:
a. attend medical appointments related to ante-natal care,
b. attend one set of ante-natal classes in a working career, other than the last 3 classes in such a set, and
c. attend medical appointments related to post-natal care within 14 weeks of the birth.
An expectant father is entitled to time off work, without loss of pay, to attend the last two ante-natal classes in a set attended by the pregnant mother.
Two weeks notice should be given for each absence referred to above and appropriate certification provided.
All absences covered under maternity entitlements are substitutable. Contracts awarded to cover these absences 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 new-born baby).
Pregnancy Related Sick Leave
Please refer to Circular Letter 0054/2019 Leave Schemes - Chapter One - Section 10 for pregnancy related illness provisions.
With effect from 1st September 2016 registered teachers are entitled to a single period of 2 consecutive weeks paid paternity leave. This leave is available to a relevant parent on the birth/adoption of a child, where the date of birth/day of placement falls on or after 1st September 2016.
Paternity Leave may commence at any time from the date of birth or date of placement of the child to 26 weeks thereafter.
For full details on the revised paternity leave scheme for registered teachers please refer to Circular Letter 0054/2019 - Leave Schemes - Chapter Four.
Fixed Term/ Fixed Purpose Appointments
A teacher who is on a fixed-term/fixed purpose contract of employment shall have full maternity leave entitlements during the term of the contract. The granting or taking of maternity leave entitlements should not affect a fixed term/fixed purpose appointment or the renewing of such an appointment.
Resumption of Duties
The employer should provide the absent employee with a written statement of their absence and expected date of resumption of duties. Four weeks before the teacher is due to return to the workplace written notice should be given to the employer confirming the intention to resume duties from that date.
Within a 104 week period after the birth of a child, a teacher who has returned to work may avail of breastfeeding breaks without loss of pay for up to one hour per day for the purpose of breastfeeding or lactation.
A teacher who qualifies for this provision must notify her employer in writing of her intention to avail of such breaks at least 4 weeks in advance. A copy of the birth certificate of the child must be submitted with the application for breastfeeding breaks.
Breastfeeding breaks may be taken in the form of;
- one break of 60 minutes, or
- two breaks of 30 minutes each, or
- three breaks of 20 minutes each.
The pattern of breastfeeding breaks should be agreed following consultation between the employer and the teacher. The breaks should be covered through the Supervision and Substitution Scheme.
For full details on all aspects of maternity leave entitlements please refer to Circular Letter 0054/2019 - Leave Schemes - Chapter 2.