Thursday, 14 December 2017
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
722. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection further to Question No. 490 of 5 December 2017, if a reduced benefit will be made available to premature babies born prior to 1 October 2017 who were in neonatal care when the cut-off came into force in view of the commencement date for the additional leave and the fact that it cannot be extended to before 1 October 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54303/17]
Maternity leave legislation provides a 26 week period of statutory maternity leave. Subject to the provisions of social welfare legislation, the 26-week period of core statutory maternity leave attracts a social insurance payment of maternity benefit.
On 3 October 2017 I, together with Minister Flanagan announced increased maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers whose babies are born prematurely on or after 1 October.
The Government decided that the additional maternity leave and benefit would be available for mothers of premature babies born on or after 1 October 2017. There are no plans to extend the new arrangements to mothers of premature babies born before that date or to introduce an additional reduced rate payment in respect of premature babies born before that date.
The additional period will commence at the end of the standard 26 week period of paid maternity leave. The extended 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.
A mother can also take a further 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave which must be taken immediately after the end of her paid maternity leave.This period is not covered by maternity benefit but a mother is entitled to a credited social insurance contribution for each week of unpaid leave that is taken (up to the maximum of 16).
Legislation currently allows for the postponement of maternity leave and maternity benefit for up to six months with the employer’s agreement in cases where the child is hospitalised. In these cases entitlement to maternity leave and benefit continues after the period of postponement for a maximum of twelve weeks.
Eligible parents can also avail of two weeks paid paternity leave at any time within the first 26 weeks following the birth or date of placement of the child. Paternity benefit is available for employed and self-employed people who are on from work and covered by contributions. Paternity leave and paternity benefit can also be postponed for up to six months in cases where the child is hospitalised.
Parents also have an entitlement to parental leave which is unpaid. Since 8 March 2013 the amount of parental leave available for each child amounts to a total of 18 working weeks per child. Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave.
I have no plans for further changes to the maternity benefit provisions at present.