The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 apply to employees who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or who are breast feeding. Entitlements include:
- 26 consecutive weeks’ maternity leave, which attracts a social welfare benefit. Two weeks of this must be taken before the baby’s due date
- 16 weeks’ unpaid maternity leave
- The right to return to your job or, if this is not “reasonably practicable,” a suitable alternative
- Paid time off for ante-natal and post-natal appointments
- Time off to attend ante-natal classes. The father is also entitled to time off to attend the last two classes
- Time off from work, or reduction of working hours, for breastfeeding
- Leave for fathers if the mother dies within 24 weeks of the birth
- The right not to be dismissed for any pregnancy related reason.
Paid and unpaid maternity leave can be postponed if the child is hospitalised. With the employees’ agreement, the Acts also allow for the termination of additional maternity leave in the event of sickness of the mother and termination of leave in the event of sickness of the father. But this is at the discretion of the employer, as is the postponement of maternity leave in the event of hospitalisation of the baby.