Maternity Rights and Entitlements:  Your local Citizens Information Centre is here to help!

Citizens Information Centres (CICs) in County Wicklow deal with a lot queries regarding maternity rights and entitlements.  There is often a lot of confusion regarding what an expectant mother may be eligible for in relation to social welfare and employment rights.  The pandemic has heightened this confusion as many have been temporarily laid off. 

Medical Care

All expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland are eligible for free maternity care under The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.  Care will be divided between your GP and an obstetrician during your pregnancy.  The number of appointments you receive will depend on whether this is your first or subsequent pregnancy.   There are also check-ups at 2 weeks for baby and at 6 weeks for mother and baby. 

There is free in-patient, out-patient and emergency care in public hospitals in relation to pregnancy and birth and you will not have to pay hospital charges.  If you have your baby in hospital, you will receive a visit from the public health nurse (also free), normally within 72 hours of returning home from the hospital.  If you have had a home birth or used the Domino Scheme, you will have already had a visit from the nurse.  The public health nurse will also carry out free development checks on your baby. 

Postnatal depression affects 10 to 15% of women within the first year of giving birth. Symptoms of postnatal depression may start as baby blues and then get progressively worse. If you think you are experiencing postnatal depression, it is vital that you ask for help. Contact your public health nurse or GP to talk about how you are feeling. You can also read about supports for postnatal depression on our website.

Employment Rights

As an employee, you are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave, which may be covered by the Maternity Benefit payment, if you have enough PRSI contributions.  You may also avail of a further 16 weeks unpaid leave.  You are entitled to take paid time off for medical visits during the pregnancy, and up to 14 weeks after the pregnancy.  You must give your employer two weeks notice of these visits.  There is also an entitlement to paid time off for some (but not all) antenatal classes.  There is no legal obligation on your employer to pay you while you are on maternity leave, this depends on your terms and conditions of employment. 

Maternity Benefit

This is payable if you are in employment within 16 weeks of the due date of your baby (this is important to note if you have been made redundant before your baby is due).  You must have enough PRSI to qualify and it is paid for 26 weeks at a rate of €250 per week.  Time spent on PUP and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will be counted as if you are still in employment.  Maternity Benefit is also payable to those in self-employment, if they satisfy the PRSI requirements.  If you have adopted your child, you may be eligible for Adoptive Benefit, which is similar to Maternity Benefit.  It should be noted that these benefits do not apply to those who become parents through surrogacy. 

Martina Cronin, Development Manager, South Leinster Citizens Information Service/ Co. Wicklow service stated “the service has been dealing with a lot of queries regarding maternity leave and entitlements and added “we are always here to help with such matters, our services are free and confidentiality is key for us.”

Funded by the Citizens Information Board , the range of areas covered by the Citizens Information Service (CIS) are extremely wide including social welfare rights and entitlements and other social issues such as employment, health services, housing, education, family matters and consumer rights on which people need access to information.

A growing number of customers require in-depth assistance and CIS plays an important role in providing advocacy with, or on behalf of, those people who need it, including people with disabilities, migrants, refugees, lone parents, the Travelling Community, prisoners, geographically isolated people and those who may not have access to digital resources.  Basically anyone working or living County Wicklow who has an issue that needs addressing or is at a crossroads in their lives.

For anyone needing impartial, confidential, non-judgemental and informed advice and support the CIS is here to help.  There are many ways to access our services.  Our website www.citizensinformation.ie is packed full of helpful information.

To find out our opening hours or if you would like us to address a specific query  or to book an appointment with a member of our team please contact your local Citizens Information Centre in Bray CIC  on 0818 07 6780. We are available from Monday to Friday and our services are free and confidential. You can also contact Arklow CIC on 0818 07 6750.

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