Note: This section should be read in conjunction with the General Provisions for All Schemes, and Definitions as laid out in Circular 0054/2019.
(Due to legislative changes, employers are advised of an amendment to the Maternity Leave Scheme for teachers contained in Circular 0054/2019 (See Information Note TC 0023/2021)
The Maternity Leave Scheme is regulated by the Maternity Protection Act, 1994 as amended.
Entitlement to Maternity Leave
A pregnant teacher who gives birth to a living child is entitled to 26 weeks statutory paid Maternity Leave and 16 weeks statutory 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 child’s expected birth and a minimum of 4 weeks must be taken after the end of the week of the child’s birth. For these purposes, Saturday is regarded as the end of a week.
Teachers should also take cognisance of the DEASP rules which state that a teacher will only become eligible for Maternity Benefit from the 24th week of pregnancy and until the end of the Statutory Maternity Leave or extended Maternity Leave for Premature Birth (where applicable). Further details on the DEASP regulations are available directly from that Department.
If the birth occurs prior to the planned leave commencement date, the Maternity Leave must commence immediately following the birth and the employer must be informed.
If the birth occurs after the expected date and there are less than 4 weeks of Maternity Leave remaining, the employer and the DEASP must be informed and the Maternity Leave will be extended to ensure that 4 weeks Maternity Leave are taken following the birth.
In the event of a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy, 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.
A teacher should contact the Maternity Benefits Section of the DEASP at the earliest opportunity but no later than the end of the 26th week of statutory Maternity Leave in order to make a claim for any additional Benefit due to the premature birth.
The DEASP will require the teacher to provide a letter (or a birth certificate) from the hospital confirming the child’s actual date of birth and the number of weeks gestation at which the child was born. Once the required information is supplied by the teacher, the DEASP will assess the claim to determine if there is any additional entitlement to Maternity Benefit due to the premature birth. Where appropriate, DEASP will confirm in writing to the teacher the additional Maternity Benefit to be paid.
The teacher will be required to provide the employer with a copy of the DEASP confirmation letter. The employer must then contact the Department with details of the premature birth. Based on this information, the Paymaster will calculate any entitlement to extended Maternity Leave due to Premature Birth, which will be recorded on the OLCS.
Statutory Additional Unpaid Maternity Leave
A teacher may take up to a maximum of 16 consecutive weeks statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave commencing on the day following statutory Maternity Leave or extended Maternity Leave for Premature Birth.
A teacher who avails of statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave may be entitled to receive PRSI credits. The Application SW1 for Maternity Leave credits, which is available from the DEASP, must be completed by the teacher and employer and returned to the DEASP. It is the teacher’s responsibility to apply for these credits.
Non-Statutory Additional Unpaid Maternity Leave
A teacher who, on completion of Maternity Leave (and extended Maternity Leave for Premature birth, where applicable) and statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave may apply for non-statutory additional Unpaid Maternity Leave until the end of the school year i.e. 31st August.
Non-Statutory additional Unpaid Maternity Leave is subject to obtaining written sanction from the employer at least 6 weeks in advance of an intention to avail of this leave.
Sequence in which Maternity Leave must be taken
Maternity Leave entitlements must be taken in the following sequence:
When all Maternity Leave types have been exhausted, as appropriate to each individual, the next working day becomes the date of resumption of duties for the teacher.
Time off for attendance at appointments and classes
Pregnant teachers are entitled to time off work, without loss of pay, to:
If a pregnant teacher misses particular ante-natal classes in a set then it is permitted that during a subsequent pregnancy, or pregnancies, she may attend classes equivalent to those missed.
An expectant father is entitled to time off work, without loss of pay, to attend the last 2 ante-natal classes in a set attended by the pregnant mother immediately prior to the birth.
Two weeks’ notice should be given for each absence referred to in this paragraph and appropriate documentary evidence provided.
Application for all types of Maternity Leave, both paid and unpaid, should be made by the teacher to her employer at least 6 weeks prior to the planned commencement date, using the Application Form at Appendix A; Chapter 2 of Circular 0054/2019.
In order to avail of Maternity Benefit, the teacher must complete the DEASP MB1 Form and should ensure that the employer completes the employer’s portion. The completed form must be forwarded to the DEASP by the teacher at least 6 weeks prior to the leave commencement date. The MB1 Form should NOT be sent to the Department.
Alternatively, the teacher may make an online application for Maternity Benefit by logging on to https://services.mywelfare.ie/. In order to complete an online application, the teacher should ensure their employer has completed the DEASP MB2 Form.
Notification and Recording of Leave
The Maternity Leave absence must be notified by the employer to the Department via the OLCS system, not later than 6 weeks prior to the commencement of the leave.
The procedure for recording Maternity Leave absences on the OLCS is available at Appendix B; Chapter 2 of Circular 0054/2019.
Examples of Maternity Leave cases are attached at Appendix C; Chapter 2 of Circular 0054/2109.
Pay Arrangements and Maternity Benefit
Continuation of salary during Maternity Leave is not a statutory entitlement and any action which necessitates an adjustment to a teacher’s pay should be notified to the Paymaster immediately.
Maternity Benefit payment is a taxable income.
Under the DEASP regulations the following are the arrangements for PRSI contributors:
If the amount of Maternity Benefit payable to the teacher is less than the maximum, or if a teacher is not entitled to any Maternity Benefit, they should notify the Paymaster immediately to ensure that they can remain on the appropriate salary.
Changes to the automatic deduction can be made provided a copy of the DEASP’s written notice of the actual Maternity Benefit rate applicable, if any, is furnished by the teacher to the Paymaster. Deductions, where appropriate, will be made fortnightly during the period of statutory paid Maternity Leave up to a maximum of 26 weeks. If the Maternity Leave absences are recorded late on the OLCS, any arrears will be deducted from the teacher’s salary.
Status during Maternity Leave
A teacher absent on any of the Maternity Leave types referred to below is deemed to have been in employment at that time.
Employment while on Maternity Leave
A teacher absent on Maternity Leave may not engage in any type of teaching or other paid employment.
Under the DEASP regulations, Maternity Benefit may be terminated if a teacher engages in paid employment while on Maternity Leave.
Salary payment will be reviewed by the Paymaster in the event of termination of Maternity Benefit arising from non-compliance with the terms of the Maternity Benefit Scheme.
Health and Safety
The Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007) place an obligation on the employer, as soon as it is notified by the teacher that she is pregnant, to assess any specific risk in the workplace to that teacher and to ensure that the pregnant, post-natal, or breastfeeding teacher (within a 26 week period after the birth of the child) is not exposed to any agents, processes or working conditions that will damage either the safety or health of the pregnant teacher and/or that of the developing child.
The teacher should be informed of the results of the risk assessment and the measures to be taken. The detailed arrangement regarding the respective responsibilities of the employer and the teacher in relation to Health and Safety Leave are contained in Sections 17 – 20 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994.
Where a risk has been identified and it is not possible to remove it, protective and preventive measures should be taken by the employer to safeguard the health and safety of any teacher to whom the provisions apply, such as:
(Please refer to the Employers Procedure Manual in Circular 0054/2019).
The teacher is entitled to receive, on request, a certificate stating the reasons she has been granted leave. The certificate must also state the start date and expected end date of the leave. Health and Safety Leave can be granted in respect of more than one period, provided the conditions outlined above are fulfilled, for each such period concerned.
A sample certificate of risk form is supplied in the schedule to the Maternity Protection (Health and Safety Leave Certification) Regulations 1995 (SI No. 19 of 1995).
Health and Safety Leave will cease when:
Specific questions on health and safety issues should be addressed to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which can provide advice, assistance and encouragement aimed at the prevention of work related accidents and the promotion of occupational safety, health and wellbeing.
A teacher who makes PRSI contributions at the modified rate (Class D), and has no entitlement to Health and Safety Benefit from the DEASP, will be entitled to full pay while on Health and Safety Leave. A teacher who makes PRSI contributions at the full rate (Class A) and who is entitled to Health and Safety Benefit from the DEASP will be paid full salary by the Paymaster for the first 21 days and thereafter will be paid full salary less any benefit paid by DEASP HSB1 Form.
The employer may appoint a substitute teacher, paid by the Paymaster, to cover all absences referred to in Chapter 2 of Circular 0054/2019, of duration of at least one day. Such absences must be recorded by the employer via the OLCS system.
Contracts awarded to cover Maternity Leave absences should make clear reference to the fact that the replacement teacher’s 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 child).
Postponement of Maternity Leave
In the event of the hospitalisation of the child, a request may be made to the employer for postponement of:
Maternity Leave can only be postponed after at least 14 weeks of the leave has expired, 4 weeks of which must have been taken after the week of the child’s birth. Postponement of Maternity Leave will require the absent teacher to resume duties in the school during the period of postponement.
An application for postponement must be made in writing to the employer, 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 Paymaster and the DEASP must be notified immediately if the teacher is to return to work to facilitate pay adjustment and cease any benefit from the DEASP and the finalisation of payment to the replacement teacher.
The postponed leave must be taken in one continuous period commencing not later than 7 days after the discharge of the child from hospital. The maximum period for postponement of the leave is 6 months.
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.
If the teacher becomes ill having returned to work and before he/she has taken the postponed leave, he/she 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 he/she does not wish to begin the postponed leave. If this happens he/she 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.
To be acceptable, a medical certificate must
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:
The sequencing arrangement outlined in paragraph 6 will also apply to the Father’s Leave:
The leave should normally commence within 7 days of the event which has created the father’s 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.
The above arrangements will take into account any extended Maternity Leave entitlement in the event of a premature birth.
Termination of Statutory Additional Unpaid Maternity/Father’s Leave
An application to take statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave or statutory additional unpaid Father’s Leave, may be withdrawn in writing, for any reason, up to 4 weeks prior to the proposed commencement date for such leave. If the 4 week cancellation period provided for in the Act has passed, entitlement to withdraw an application has been lost.
However, in the event of illness, a formal request can still be made to the employer, even after a period of such leave has commenced, to terminate the leave in favour of a certified Sick Leave absence. Approval of a request to terminate the Maternity 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. The date agreed cannot be earlier than the first day of certified illness and not later than when the terminated Maternity Leave would otherwise have ended. The normal procedures in relation to Sick Leave will then apply. The teacher will not be entitled subsequently to take the statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave or any part of it.
To facilitate necessary pay adjustment the employer must notify the Paymaster that the teacher is now on Sick Leave.
Return to work following Maternity Leave
The employer should provide the absent teacher with a written statement of their absence and expected date of resumption of duties. The employer should be provided with a written notice from the teacher, 4 weeks before she is due to return confirming the intention to resume duties from that date.
Within a 104 week period after the birth of the 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:-
The pattern of breastfeeding breaks should be agreed following consultation between the employer and the teacher. Employers should take reasonable measures to facilitate the pattern of breastfeeding breaks as requested, while having due regard to the welfare and educational needs of pupils.
A teacher availing of breastfeeding breaks who ceases to breastfeed, should notify her employer in writing as soon as possible.
Substitute cover for breastfeeding breaks is not paid by the Department. At post primary level, the breaks should be covered through the Supervision and Substitution Scheme.