For comprehensive details of the maternity leave scheme, refer to Chapter Two of circular 54/2019, published 1 September 2019.
Permanent, CID-holding, fixed-term, and non-casual substitute teachers who give birth after twenty-four weeks, or earlier to a live baby, will be entitled to take maternity leave.
Paid maternity leave lasts for up to twenty-six weeks. After this, the teacher has an option to take up to sixteen weeks (112 days) of unpaid maternity leave, of which she can use as much or little as she wishes, and which must commence immediately after her paid maternity leave.
Both paid and unpaid maternity leave are statutory entitlements.
At the discretion of their board, and only after using their full complement of paid and unpaid maternity leave, teachers may also apply for non-statutory unpaid maternity. If approved, this will run from the end of unpaid maternity leave until 31 August of the year in which it is taken.
The leave entitlements of teachers in fixed-term or non-casual substitute contracts will end at the end of their contracts.
The INTO has developed a Maternity Leave Calculator (Excel) to assist members working out the dates of their maternity leave.
As a broad guide to working out the latest possible commencement date for paid maternity leave:
- Go to the Saturday at the end of the week in which you’re due. (If you’re due on a Saturday, you’ll be counting back from your actual due date.)
- Count back to the Saturday two weeks earlier.
- Your paid maternity can begin on the next Monday, inclusive.
Although the above shows how to establish the latest commencement date, it should also be noted that an employee is entitled to begin maternity leave at any point after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy.
Applying for maternity leave
Maternity leave should be requested at least six weeks before it commences.
The teacher will apply to their own board of management with:
- The completed application form for leave using Application form for maternity leave Appendix A (PDF),
- A medical certificate confirming their due date,
- A copy of the confirmation document from the DEASP in regard to the teacher’s maternity benefit.
Up to sixteen weeks of unpaid leave may be applied for six weeks before the end of the paid maternity leave.
If unpaid maternity leave is taken, upon returning to service, an employee may apply for credited PRSI contributions for this time, using the SW11 (PDF) form.
When a baby is born prematurely, before the intended commencement of maternity leave, the mother will be able to extend her maternity leave by the difference between the date of birth and the anticipated maternity leave start date.
Maternity leave will still commence on the day of the premature birth, and the employer and DEASP should be notified so the maternity leave can commence immediately, but the mother may also benefit from an extension of her leave after twenty-six weeks have expired.
For instance, a woman who delivers her baby at thirty weeks, but was expected to commence her maternity leave when thirty-seven weeks pregnant, will still start her maternity leave immediately on the day of the birth. However, after her twenty-six weeks of paid maternity leave, she will be able to avail of a further seven weeks of paid maternity leave.
In order to apply for her extended maternity leave, the teacher must first contact the DEASP within twenty-six weeks of the premature delivery.
The DEASP requires the teacher to provide a letter (or a birth certificate) from the hospital confirming the child’s actual date of birth and the number of weeks gestation at which the child was born. Once this information is supplied by the teacher, the DEASP will determine if additional Maternity Benefit should be paid, and will confirm the details to the teacher in writing.
The teacher will be required to provide the employer with a copy of the DEASP confirmation letter, and the employer will then contact the Department/ETB with details of the premature birth, and the Department/ETB record any additional leave entitlement on the OLCS/relevant ETB system.
Non-casual substitute teacher taking maternity leave
A substitute teacher who is commences a contract of more than forty days duration – generally covering maternity leave, parental leave, or carer’s leave – or a substitute teacher who has completed forty days of work within the current school year is a non-casual substitute teacher.
A non-casual substitute teacher is regarded as a fixed term worker for the purposes of the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003. As such, they are entitled to the same terms and conditions as a comparable permanent colleague, including access to their own maternity leave. This entitlement comes to an end at the end of the teacher’s contract.
However, as two substitute teachers may not be paid for the same role through the OLCS, the non-casual substitute who is taking her maternity leave must be paid using the Primary Teachers Substitute for a Substitute form. The substitute who is covering the vacancy (i.e. the teacher who is working in the school during the absence) should be paid through the OLCS.
Substitute teachers taking maternity leave without a contract
A teacher who is substitute teaching on a casual basis may still have enough PRSI contributions to claim maternity benefit from the DEASP for twenty-six weeks. (See the Citizens Information website for details.)
However, it is important to note that maternity leave taken while not in a contract will not be considered a period of service with the Department of Education, and you are not considered to be on leave from their employment during this time.
If a teacher is out of service for a period of twenty-six weeks or longer, regardless of the reason, when they return it will be as a member of the Single Pension Scheme, which was introduced across the public sector for new entrants from 1 January 2013.
If you commenced service prior to 1 January 2013, and you are currently a member of the older Teachers’ Pension Scheme, it is in your interest to avoid ever having a break in your service of twenty-six weeks or longer.
Unfortunately for a teacher who is not in a contract, and who is claiming maternity benefit, the best advice is to end your maternity benefit claim early, by doing a day of substitute work twenty-five weeks after you were last paid by the Department of Education. There is no requirement to return to full-time employment at this stage; it’s just important that you avoid having a twenty-six-week gap in your Department of Education-paid service.
This twenty-six week break in service is based on the calendar, not school timetables. If you are last paid by the Department at the end of June, the summer holidays will count as an eight week break in your service, and you will need to work again by late December.
For entrants after 1 January 2013, or for those who have already had a break in their service since that date, there is no jeopardy to your pension conditions by being out of service for twenty-six weeks.
Approved leaves of absence while in employment (such as career breaks, paid or unpaid sick leave, or statutory maternity leave) will not affect a teachers’ membership of their current pension scheme.
Applying for maternity benefit
All teachers who pay Class A PRSI who are taking maternity leave must also apply for state maternity benefit.
Maternity benefit of €245 per week is paid to employees with sufficient PRSI contributions, with the Department of Education and Skills paying the balance of the teacher’s salary fortnightly.
To claim this benefit, teachers must complete and send the MB1/2 (PDF) to the Maternity Benefit Unit of Department of Social Protection, at least six weeks’ before maternity leave commences. Teachers may also apply online at https://services.mywelfare.ie/
Late applications may result in a delay with the payment of maternity benefit.
Notes which may be helpful to you in filling out your MB1/2
- For the purpose of this form, the board of management is the employer.
- The exception to this rule is the Employers Registered Number, for which the Department of Education payroll number, 400009H, should be used.
- Payment details will be the teacher’s own bank details; this benefit is paid directly to the claimant.
If you are ineligible for maternity benefit
Due to insufficient PRSI contributions, some people may find that they are ineligible, or that they are eligible for less than the full amount of maternity benefit (as of 2019, €245 per week). This may be the case for teachers returning from career break, or those who are just at the start of their career.
The Department of Education and Skills have made provision for these circumstances (see part 10.4 of Chapter Two of circular 54/2019 PDF).
In these circumstances, the teacher should notify Department payroll of their ineligibility, providing written confirmation from the Department of Social Protection, to ensure that their salary deductions are correct while on maternity leave.
Statutory annual leave and public holidays
Chapter Ten of circular 54/2019 sets out the arrangements in relation to statutory annual leave/public holiday entitlements. The arrangements can be summarised as follows:
- The leave year for teachers runs from 1 September to 31 August.
- Full-time employees have a statutory right to 20 days annual leave, and nine public holidays per year.
- A teacher’s entitlement to 20 days annual leave and nine public holidays is not affected by her absence on maternity leave.
- Public holidays which are missed while on maternity leave will be accounted for with additional annual leave.
- However, if during the leave year, a teacher on maternity leave has been able to take the statutory minimum of 20 days annual leave, and any public holiday entitlements due, either before and/or after her maternity leave through scheduled school closures, then she has gotten her statutory entitlements so no additional leave has accrued.
- If, in the leave year, a teacher’s maternity leave means she won’t be able to take her 20 days annual leave and nine public holidays through school closures, she may take any such days immediately before the commencement of her maternity leave.
- Finally, if a teacher wishes to carry any such days forward to the following leave year, then these days may be taken only when the school is scheduled to be closed.
In practical terms, the Department has stated that leave in lieu is the absolute minimum in line with the requirements of the Organisation of Working Time Act.
The small number of days in lieu (if any) that may accrue to a teacher under these revised arrangements must be taken immediately prior to the commencement of maternity leave, as they are effectively lost if carried forward to the next leave year.
If a pregnant teacher does have an entitlement to additional annual leave, this is separate to her maternity leave, and will not affect the dates submitted to the DEASP or recorded on the OLCS. This leave is substitutable, but the school will have to make contact with payroll to arrange payment of the substitute.
Antenatal medical appointments
Pregnant teachers are entitled to paid leave with substitute cover to attend all medical appointments relating to their pregnancy. These are not part of sick leave, and should be recorded on the OLCS as an Antenatal Visit.
Teachers availing of this leave should give as much notice as possible to their school, and should provide proof of attendance at their appointment.
Pregnant teachers are entitled to paid leave with substitute cover to attend one full set of antenatal classes in a working career, and the final three classes in a set for any subsequent pregnancies.
Pregnancy related sick leave
An overview of the sick leave scheme may be found here. Broadly speaking, pregnancy related sick leave is part of a teacher’s overall sick leave record and will be relevant to their four year count-back.
However, there is a provision in place whereby when sick leave is later exhausted, by reaching the 183 day threshold, a teacher may extend her sick leave by the number of pregnancy related days recorded, at half pay. As such, it is important that schools correctly record pregnancy related sick leave on the OLCS.
For example, if a teacher had 50 days of pregnancy related sick leave, these days will be part of her normal sick leave record. But, within the same four year period, if she subsequently fell ill with an unrelated condition, and reached the 183 day limit, rather than moving onto Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (TRR), she would have access to an additional 50 days at half pay, in light of the earlier pregnancy related condition.
There is also a protection in place where a woman will not drop below half-pay if a condition is pregnancy related, regardless of the number of days taken.
Stillbirth or miscarriage
If a teacher has a stillbirth or miscarriage any time after the twenty-fourth week of her pregnancy, she will still be entitled to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave (followed by up to sixteen weeks of unpaid maternity leave).
She will still apply to the Department of Social Protection for her Maternity Benefit following a stillbirth. In these circumstances, the teacher should send a letter from her doctor with the Maternity Benefit application form, the MB1/2, confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
Health and safety leave
Health and safety leave may be granted if the conditions in a workplace present a risk to a pregnant teacher or her developing baby. This may include contagious illnesses to which the employee is not immune.
Although the advice of the woman’s own doctors should be followed, the decision to approve health and safety leave will rest with the occupational health service, Medmark.
When an employer identifies a risk to a pregnant employee’s health in the workplace, they have a responsibility to take the followings steps:
Step 1: Adjust the working conditions and/or hours of work.
If this does not remove the risk
Step 2: Provide suitable alternative work;
If that is not possible
Step 3: The employer should assist the employee in receiving health and safety leave, under Section 18 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994.
Applications for health and safety leave are generally made as soon as the risk is identified, but may necessitate a period of sick leave while the health and safety leave application is assessed. The principal will make an online referral to the OHS for an employee’s health and safety leave.
If a teacher is absent for more than twenty-one days on health and safety leave, she must claim Health and Safety Benefit from the Department of Social Protection. This benefit is paid directly to the teacher, with the value of it deducted from her fortnightly salary.
Parent’s Leave is a statutory entitlement to two additional weeks of leave available to both parents of children born on or after 1 November 2019.
The Department of Education and Skills has not yet published a circular in relation to Parent’s Leave.
Operation of Parent’s Leave
These two weeks will be available until the child turns one. They must be taken in minimum blocks of one week, and may be taken as two separate weeks, or two consecutive weeks. These two weeks are not transferable between parents.
Applying for Parent’s Leave
In the absence of a circular or application form, teachers who wish to avail of Parent’s Leave should put their leave request in writing to their Board of Management with at least six weeks’ notice.
It is not yet possible to record this absence on the OLCS, so their school should then notify the Terms and Conditions Section in the Department with the details of the teacher’s leave.
Payment during Parent’s Leave
Parent’s Benefit of €245 per week should be claimed by teachers availing of Parent’s Leave.
The Department of Education and Skills, at the direction of DPER, has indicated that teachers’ salaries will not be topped up while availing of this leave, and that is how Parent’s Leave has been operated thus far.
The INTO is extremely concerned about this departure from how paid leave is usually addressed for our members, and with our colleagues in the other teacher unions continue to pursue this matter with the Department of Education. (See here for more.)
Sequence in which leave should be taken
For women who intend to avail of statutory unpaid Maternity Leave, this must follow directly at the end of paid maternity leave and can then be followed by Parent’s Leave.
Parent’s leave doesn’t have to be taken immediately following Maternity or Paternity Leave, but it is important to note that it must be taken within the first year of the baby’s life.
Application forms and additional information
- Chapter 2 of Circular 54/2019
- Application form for maternity leave Appendix A (PDF)
- Application form for maternity benefit MB1/2 (PDF)
- To request PRSI while on unpaid maternity leave SW11 (PDF)
- To apply for Health and Safety Benefit (PDF)
If you have questions about your Maternity Leave, the INTO QueryLine operates 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, on (01) 804 7700.