ANY FEMALE IN AN ORGANISATION IS ENTITLED TO MATERNITY LEAVE: TRUE
Maternity leave is NOT subject to when an employee joined the company, or how many hours they work. An entitlement to a basic period of 26 weeks maternity leave extends to all female employees, including casual workers. Employees can also avail of an additional 16 weeks leave which begins immediately after the end of the basic period of maternity leave.
An employee has to give their relevant manager a medical certificate confirming the pregnancy and at least four weeks written notice of their intention to take maternity leave. Should an employee intend to take the additional 16 weeks maternity leave, they must separately provide 4 weeks written notice, however both these notices can be given at the same time.
In the unfortunate event of a stillbirth or miscarriage, after the 24th week of pregnancy, an employee is still entitled to full maternity leave.
AN EMPLOYER HAS TO OFFER MATERNITY PAY ALONGSIDE MATERNITY BENEFIT: FALSE
Legally, employers are not obliged to pay women on maternity leave. It is important to ensure that all employment policies are in place, as an employee’s maternity entitlements to pay and superannuation during leave depends on terms of the contract of employment.
An employee may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection, and in some cases, a company will offer full pay, less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.
If an employee decides to avail of the 16 week additional maternity leave, they will not receive Maternity Benefit, nor is an employer obliged to make any payment during this period, unless previously agreed.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND ANNUAL LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS ARE IN ADDITION TO MATERNITY LEAVE: TRUE
Employees on maternity leave and/or additional maternity leave are entitled to leave for any public holidays. With the exception of pay and superannuation, time spent on maternity and additional maternity leave is treated as though the employee has been in employment, and this time can be used for them to accumulate annual leave and public holiday entitlement.
If an employee becomes ill whilst on additional maternity leave, they are within their right to ask for the leave to be ended, and instead the remainder of the leave be treated as sick leave. This means the employee will not be entitled to the rest of additional maternity leave, however may receive illness benefit. It is at the discretion of the employer to agree to end additional maternity leave.
MATERNITY LEAVE ONLY BEGINS IN THE WEEK BEFORE THE EXPECTED DUE DATE AND ENDS WHEN THE EMPLOYEE COMES BACK TO WORK: FALSE
Employees are to take at least two weeks of maternity leave before the week ending the expected birth date and at least four weeks after. It is up to the employee how they would like to spend the remaining weeks, however generally employees take two weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after.
An employer is responsible for allowing a pregnant employee time to attend antenatal classes and medical appointments in the run up to their maternity leave. A female employee is entitled to attend five antenatal classes without losing pay and male employees are entitled to paid time off to attend the last two classes with their partner.
Before the birth and up to 14 weeks after the birth, an employee is entitled to take reasonable time off for medical visits with two weeks’ notice. There is no minimum or maximum time given for the medical visits, and includes any time required to travel to and from an appointment. An employer can request medical appointment cards if an employee asks for time off on these grounds.
Breastfeeding mothers, who give birth not more than 26 weeks earlier, are entitled to an hour each day of paid time off for the purpose of breastfeeding. If facilities are available, the time off may be given in the actual workplace, however if this is not an option, a reduction in working hours (on full pay) may be requested by an employee to facilitate breastfeeding.
AN EMPLOYEE DOES NOT HAVE TO REMAIN IN THE WORKPLACE AND IS ENTITLED TO PAY IF HEALTH AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS ARE NOT MET: TRUE
An employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment in relation to pregnant employees, as well as those who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Potential risks should be removed or the employee moved to a different location in the workplace. In some cases, these options may not be possible, which results in the employee being offered health and safety leave up until the beginning of maternity leave.
For the period of health and safety leave due to pregnancy, employers must pay their employee normal wages for the first three weeks. After three weeks, Health and Safety Benefit may be paid by the Department of Social Protection.
A FATHER IS NOT ENTITLED TO MATERNITY/PATERNITY LEAVE: FALSE
Whilst paternity leave isn’t a legal requirement in Ireland, employers can offer a new father leave, paid or unpaid, at their discretion. Annual leave taken following the birth of a child is treated in the same way as leave taken at any other time of the year. It is also at the discretion of the employer to decide who can and cannot take annual leave at any given time.
While male employees are not entitled under law to paternity leave, they may be entitled to parental leave of up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave from employment, only if they have been with the same employer for a year. Employees who avail of this leave are not entitled to any pay or social welfare benefits during this time; however it does not affect the employment rights of the employee, and when they return to the workplace, they are entitled to ask for a change in working patterns or working hours. An employer must consider the request but is not obliged to grant it.
In the regrettable case of a mother dying within 40 weeks of the birth, a male employee is entitled to a period of maternity leave. If the mother dies within 24 weeks of the birth, the father has a right to additional maternity leave, and if the mother's death is over 24 weeks from the birthdate, the father is entitled to leave until 40 weeks after the birth.
A DEMOTION OR DISMISSAL LINKED TO PREGNANCY IS DEEMED AN UNFAIR DISMISSAL: TRUE
Employees are entitled to return to work with the same contract of employment. If, for some practicable reason, it is unsafe for an employee to return to work, an employer must provide a suitable alternative to work with the position being on the same terms as the previous role.
An employee’s employment conditions cannot be worsened by the fact they took maternity leave, and if pay or other conditions have improved whilst the employee was on leave then they are entitled to these benefits when they return to work.
All dismissals connected with pregnancy are deemed to be unfair, including employees made redundant during maternity leave and those who are not offered suitable alternative employment.
Employers should review their policies to ensure that employees’ leave entitlements are adequately reflected within every area of the company.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.