Naughten confirms Government extends maternity benefit to mothers of pre-mature babies

In Featured, Health by Denis Naughten

Local Minister Denis Naughten confirms the Government is extending maternity leave and benefit to
mothers of pre-mature babies.

Under the plan a mother would be entitled to receive an extra period of maternity
leave and benefit in addition to the current statutory 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.

“The extended period of benefit would be equivalent to the duration between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the statutory maternity would have applied – which is two weeks before the expected date of birth,” confirms Naughten.

“For example where a baby is born in the 30th week the mother would receive an additional entitlement of approximately 7 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 birth]. This additional period will be added to the mother’s normal entitlement of 26 weeks maternity leave and benefit,” added Naughten

“Some babies born prematurely can spend many months in hospital. Currently maternity leave/benefit starts from the date of birth so a mother can have used up most of her maternity leave and benefit before her baby actually comes home from hospital,” stated Naughten.

Under the new plans mothers of premature babies born after October 1st 2017 would begin their 26 weeks maternity leave and any additional weeks of benefit due would then be paid at the end of the existing 26 week entitlement. This means that the first additional payments would be due from 30 March 2018 onwards.

Current Arrangements

The current entitlement to maternity leave is 26 weeks paid with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave also available which begins immediately after the end of the paid maternity leave. Maternity benefit is a payment made for 26 weeks to women who are on maternity leave from work and covered by social insurance (PRSI). At present under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 at least 2 weeks of paid maternity leave (from 26 weeks in total) has to be taken before the end of the week of the baby’s expected birth, and at least 4 weeks after.

The National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS) defines preterm births as those at less than 37 weeks gestation.

On average there are 4,500 premature births per year in Ireland.