Maternity leave may be extended for premature births

Budget 2018 may benefit mothers of more than 4,500 babies a year


Cabinet is expected to agree plans to extend paid maternity leave and benefits in the upcoming Budget in the cases of premature births.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty will bring the proposals to Cabinet later today. The changes will include extending the current 26 week period of State paid maternity leave offered to mothers in cases of premature birth.

Ms Doherty’s memo to Cabinet will propose extending maternity leave to begin when the baby is born, and the additional weeks will be added onto the end of the existing 26 weeks.

It will allow for maternity benefit and leave to be extended for the mothers of babies born prematurely and will be applicable by the number of weeks prematurely a baby is born. For example, if a child is born at 32 weeks, a mother would be entitled to an extra eight weeks maternity leave and benefit.

The proposal was first suggested by the Green Party, whose motion in support of the issue was passed in the Dáil back in April, with support from all parties.

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin said “extending maternity leave and maternity benefit for mothers of premature babies will give huge support at a time of massive upheaval and stress. This in turn will lead to better postnatal health, a better outcome for the baby and eventually a more positive return to work.”

According to figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Central Statistics Office (CSO), over 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland every year, which in 2014 was 6.6 percent of all births.

The Green Party have said the proposal would cost around €5 million per year, and the changes are expected to be included in the Social Welfare Budget Bill. The Budget will be announced next Tuesday, October 10th.