We provide legal advice to both employers and employees in relation to maternity leave.
Pregnant employees have a statutory right to basic maternity leave which is currently 26 weeks. There is a further statutory right to additional maternity leave which is currently 16 weeks. At least 2 weeks leave must be taken before the expected week of confinement and at least 4 weeks after the expected weeks of confinement.
There is no statutory entitlement to pay from an employer during any maternity leave period. The state maternity benefit i.e. social welfare is payable to employees for the basic maternity leave only and additional maternity leave is not covered.
It may be the case that a minimum service requirement is required before the employee is entitled to claim contractual maternity pay. Where these do in fact exist, it is important that they are noted and observed in the employment contract and employment handbooks and Healy O’Connor Solicitors provide legal advice in this regard.
Protection afforded during maternity leave
- The employee has continuity of employment
- Annual leave and public holiday entitlements continue to accrue to the employee
- The employee has the right to return to the same job they held before they left on maternity leave where possible. If not practicable, the employee must be offered a reasonable alternative job on no less favourable terms.
- An employee on maternity leave cannot be given notice of termination of their employment contract.
It is important to note the following:
- Civil courts and the employment tribunals are most protective of pregnant employees and under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-2005, any dismissal due to pregnancy is automatically unfair regardless of the employee’s length of service.
- Gender is a protected ground under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2004.
4 weeks written notice must be given by an employee to her employer for basic maternity leave, additional maternity leave and dates as to a return to work.