Can I claim maternity benefit when I move back to Ireland?

Ask the experts: I’m pregnant in Australia but we want to move home to be near family

To get  maternity benefit, an expectant mother must be in insurable employment in Ireland. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

To get maternity benefit, an expectant mother must be in insurable employment in Ireland. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

 

Question: SJ, Australia

My partner and I are expecting our first baby in September. We are trying to decide if we should move back to Ireland from Australia. We love living here but we want to be closer to our families with the baby coming. I work as a hairdresser and I’ve been living here for six years. My partner is an electrician and he has been in Oz for seven years. We met over here.

It would take a few months for us to finish our jobs and pack up, so I probably wouldn’t be able to get a job back in Ireland before the baby is due. Will I be entitled to maternity benefit in Ireland? I worked in Dublin for three years full-time before I left, and part-time for a few years before that. Thanks.

Answer: Sarah Owen, Crosscare Migrant Project

Public maternity care under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme is available to all expectant mothers who are “ordinarily resident’ in Ireland. The term “ordinarily resident” means a person is living in Ireland and intends to do so for one year or more.

Pregnant Irish emigrants who return from abroad can get free in-patient, out-patient, accident and emergency services in public hospitals in respect of the pregnancy and the birth once they are living here and plan to do so for more than a year. Further information on this scheme can be found on the HSE website. A useful guide to maternity care in Ireland is also available from the Citizens Information website.

A woman who is in employment in Ireland while pregnant is entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave and 16 weeks’ additional unpaid maternity leave immediately afterwards. Employers are not obliged to provide full pay during maternity leave so this depends on contract stipulations.

To access maternity benefit, an expectant mother must be in insurable employment in Ireland. This payment is only available to women who are on maternity leave from work, and have a minimum of 39 weeks (nine months) of PRSI contributions (the most recent of which must have been paid in Ireland) paid in the 12 months before your first day of maternity leave.

There are some exceptions to this and you can get more information on the Citizens Information’s section on maternity benefit.

PRSI contributions

As a result of this, it is unlikely you would be eligible for maternity benefit. Even if you do manage to get work before your baby is due, you would not be able to make enough PRSI contributions within that period, and your previous PRSI dates back to more than six years ago.

However, it may be possible for your partner to apply for a payment such as Jobseeker’s Allowance while he seeks employment here upon return. Adding you as a “qualified adult” on his claim could result in an increase in the rate of payment if he is found eligible.

To qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance he will be subject to a means test and something called the Habitual Residence Condition. Specific information about this condition for returning Irish emigrants is available from Crosscare Migrant Project at www.migrantproject.ie.

Full details of the criteria for both of these payments can also be found on the Department of Social Protection website at www.welfare.ie.

Sarah Owen is Irish Abroad Networking Officer with Crosscare Migrant Project, which provides information and advocacy services to Irish emigrants thanks to funding from the Emigrant Support Programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Crosscare. See www.migrantproject.ie

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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