– The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (Pregnant Employees, etc)
– Regulations 1994 SI 446 of 1994
– Maternity Protection Act, 1994 (Extension of Periods of Leave) Order, 2001
Legislation (Maternity Protection (Amendment) Bill 2003) amending the Maternity Protection Act 1994 will, when enacted, improve maternity protection for employees. The legislation will implement the recommendations made by the Working Group on the Review and Improvement of the Maternity Protection Legislation.
The main provisions of the Bill are as follows:
• Provision, subject to the employer’s agreement, for the termination of (unpaid) additional maternity leave in the event of sickness;
• Provision, subject to the employer’s agreement, for the postponement of maternity leave/additional maternity leave in the event of the hospitalisation of the child;
• Provision for expectant mothers to attend one set of ante-natal classes without loss of pay;
• Provision of a once off right to fathers to paid time off to attend the last 2 ante-natal classes;
• Provision for breastfeeding mothers who have given birth within the previous 4 months with an entitlement,without loss of pay, to either breastfeeding breaks, where breastfeeding facilities are provided by the employer or a reduction of working hours and;
• Provision that an employee’s absence from work on additional maternity leave will count for all employment rights associated with the employment (except remuneration and superannuation benefits), such as seniority and annual leave.
Rights under Maternity Protection Act, 1994 apply to all pregnant employees, all employees who have given birth in the previous 14 weeks, and all employees who are breastfeeding up to 26 weeks after the birth, provided they have notified their employer of their condition. No minimum length of service is required.
Qualifying employees are entitled to:
• 18 weeks maternity leave, to include at least 4 weeks before the expected date of birth and at least 4 weeks
after the birth
• 8 weeks additional maternity leave (optional)
• Social welfare payment, if applicable, during the 18 weeks maternity leave.
Employees must give employers at least 4 weeks written notice before:
• Taking maternity leave
• Taking additional maternity leave
• Returning to work
Other categories of protective leave under the Maternity Protection Act:
Natal Care Leave
Employees are entitled to paid time off to receive antenatal
or post-natal care. 2 weeks notice of appointments should
be given to the employer where possible
If a mother dies during maternity or additional maternity
leave, the father may avail of the outstanding balance of the
Health and Safety Leave
Employers are required to identify any risk to which employees covered by the Maternity Protection Act might be
exposed. If a risk is established, the employer should remove it or transfer the employee to suitable alternative work. If no such work is available, the woman must be granted health and safety leave.
Employers are obliged to pay employees for the first 3 weeks of health and safety leave, after which social welfare benefits
may apply. Health and Safety provisions may also apply to employees who normally work at night (subject to medical
• The right to maternity leave accrues after 24 weeks of
• All employment rights other than the right to remuneration are either preserved or suspended
during protective leave.
SI 446 of 1994 requires an employer to assess the workplace for risks to pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth or who are breast feeding. If a risk is established to a woman who fits into one of these categories, the employer must put in place measures to remove the risk and if this is notpossible, to provide suitable alternative work or else grant health and safety leave.
Procedures and Enforcement
Disputes arising under the Act (entitlement to leave, time off for antenatal or post-natal care etc but excluding a dismissal claim) may be referred to a Rights Commissioner (6-month time limit, 12 months in ‘exceptional circumstances’); this decision may be appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal within 4 weeks.
A claim relating to dismissal must be brought under the Unfair Dismissal Acts.
The one year continuous service requirement under the Unfair Dismissals Acts does not apply where the employee is dismissed for pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding or any matters connected therewith.