Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon has welcomed the extension of maternity leave and benefit to mothers with premature babies as an important change which recognises the additional burdens and pressures that accompany a premature birth as well as the additional leave time that is required.
From 1st October 2017, maternity benefit will be extended by the extra time from the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the maternity leave was expected to commence- ordinarily two weeks before the expected date of birth.
“This was an issue that I questioned in the Dail last year following a meeting I had with mothers of children who were born prematurely. That meeting brought home to me the many additional challenges that face new parents of a premature baby who often has to stay in hospital for extended periods. In some cases by the time the baby was ready to come home from hospital the mothers standard maternity leave was nearly up as she had to commence it earlier and this was not right.
“This is the change of a compassionate Fine Gael Government and moves us towards creating an environment where people reach their full potential. The mothers of premature babies need to know that their country cares about them and their children. Improvements to their maternity leave and benefit demonstrates this.”
“This change is part of a suite of benefits that Fine Gael is introducing to improve the lives of parents, would-be parents, and their children, including Minister Simon Harris’s intention to introduce funding to assist couples seeking fertility treatments. This Government is determined to offer a helping hand when it is needed, particularly to young families.”
“I would advise new mothers of pre-term babies to claim their 26 weeks of maternity benefit as usual, or send an email to email@example.com including their contact details. They will then be contacted by the Department to ensure that any additional benefit payment is made.
Notes to Editor:
Maternity Benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to women who are on maternity leave from work and covered by social insurance (PRSI).
Application is normally made 6 weeks before commencement of maternity leave or 12 weeks in the case of a self-employed person.
The minimum rate of payment was increased to €235 per week (previously €230) from 13th March 2017.
A person in receipt of certain social welfare payments can receive half-rate maternity benefit.
Under the new arrangements, in addition to the current 26 weeks of paid maternity leave a mother will be entitled to an additional period of paid maternity leave.
The additional period will commence at the end of the standard 26 week period of paid maternity leave.
The additional period to be added will be the number of weeks from the baby’s actual date of birth up to two weeks before the expected date of confinement which would have been the 37th week of the pregnancy, at which point the current entitlement to 26 weeks leave and benefit would normally begin.
So, for example where a baby is born in the 30th week of gestation the mother would have an additional entitlement of approximately seven weeks of maternity leave and benefit i.e. from the date of birth in the 30th week to the two weeks before the expected date of confinement. This additional period will be added to the mother’s normal entitlement to 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit.
The Social Protection Department will apply the additional weeks of benefit for pre-term infants born on or after October 1st where the mother meets the ordinary qualifying criteria for maternity benefit.