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Maternity leave

You are entitled to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.

You can begin and end your maternity leave on any day you choose but you must take:

  • a minimum of 2 weeks leave before the end of the week you are expecting to give birth
  • 4 weeks leave after the end of the week you expect to give birth

Premature births

In the event of premature birth, you may be entitled to a further period of paid maternity leave. Additional entitlements apply after the end of the standard 26 week period of maternity leave.

HR Circular 013-2019 premature births (PDF, 370KB, 4 pages)

You can take 16 weeks (unpaid) additional maternity leave. You must take this immediately after the end of ordinary paid maternity leave.

Payment while on maternity leave

Under the health service maternity pay scheme you are entitled to basic pay and normal fixed allowances less any maternity benefit. This depends on your social welfare contributions.

This does not include additional amounts from:

  • night work
  • overtime
  • shift work
  • working unsociable hours
  • standby or on-call allowances

Part-time employees

If you work part-time your maternity pay will be calculated pro-rata.

If you have varying weekly hours of attendance, you are entitled to your average weekly pay. This is calculated over the previous 13 weeks worked before taking your maternity leave. This excludes unsocial hours premium payments, overtime, on-call and standby allowances.

Sick leave during maternity leave

If you become sick during the last 4 weeks of maternity leave you may ask your manager to take sick leave instead. This also applies if you are already on, or applied for, additional maternity leave.

If your employer agrees, you may be entitled to use the sick leave scheme. But you will not be entitled to take your additional maternity leave after your sick leave ends.

Early births

If you give birth more than 2 weeks early and you have not yet started maternity leave you can take 26 weeks maternity leave from the date you give birth. You must give written notice to your employer within 14 days of the birth.

Late births

If your baby is born later than their due date you may have less than 4 weeks of maternity leave after your baby is born. If so, you can extend your maternity leave. This will mean you still have 4 weeks off after the birth of your baby.


In the event of a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave.

If your baby is hospitalised

You can postpone the period of any maternity leave if your newborn baby is hospitalised. Your employer will need to agree to this. You can only postpone leave after you have taken 14 weeks of maternity leave.

These rules also apply to the father of the child. This is only where the father is taking maternity leave in the place of the mother

Death of mother (father of the child entitlement)

If a mother dies during child birth, her maternity leave entitlement transfers to the father of the child.

This leave must start within 7 days of the mother’s death.

Ante-natal and post-natal medical care

You are entitled to time off work with pay to attend ante-natal and post-natal medical appointments. Time off includes travel time to and from the appointment. You must give your employer 2 weeks written notice. The notice should include the date and time of the appointment.

Time off for ante-natal classes

You can take paid time off work to attend one set of ante-natal classes. This covers all your pregnancies while in employment.

You may be unable to attend some classes due to circumstances beyond your control.

This can include:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • premature birth
  • illness of the employee

In these cases, you can carry over your entitlement to your next pregnancy.

Expectant fathers have a once-off entitlement to paid time off work. This is to attend the last 2 ante-natal classes before the birth.

Health and safety leave

You may request a risk assessment from your local HR department if you think your job does not meet health and safety standards. This assessment will then be carried out by your line manager.

This applies to employees who:

  • are pregnant
  • have recently given birth
  • who are breastfeeding

If a risk is identified, your work conditions or hours must be temporarily adjusted. You may also be given suitable alternative work. If no such work is available, you are entitled to health and safety leave.

During health and safety leave, you are treated as if you are still at work. You will continue to build-up entitlements based on actual service. But you are not entitled to any public holidays that may happen during this period.

Payment during health and safety leave

You are entitled to basic pay plus any allowance normally paid, for the first 21 calendar days of leave.

Pay does not include additional amounts you would receive for:

  • night work
  • shift-work overtime
  • working unsociable hours
  • standby or on-call allowances

Your health and safety leave may go beyond 21 days. If so, you may be entitled to health and safety benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This will depend on your PRSI contributions.

Health and Safety information for pregnant, postnatal and breastfeeding employees

Protection of employment rights

Maternity leave and additional maternity leave

During all maternity leave, you are treated as if you are still at work. The maternity pay scheme for health service employees applies to the standard 26 weeks maternity leave. This includes pension accrued during this time.

This includes the right to:

  • annual leave
  • public holidays
  • incremental credit
  • seniority

Sick leave and annual leave

Absence from work on maternity leave should not be treated as part of any other leave. This includes sick leave or annual leave, which you are entitled to.

Public holidays

Maternity leave is extended by the number of public holidays during the period of leave. This is not the case for health and safety leave.

Probation, training and apprenticeships

The following periods will be suspended until the end of maternity leave:

  • probation
  • training
  • apprenticeship

Return to work

You must give written notice of the date you will be returning to work. You must do this at least 4 weeks before your expected return date.

Breastfeeding facilities

If you are breastfeeding, you are entitled to:

  • an adjustment of working hours to allow you to breastfeed your child without loss of pay
  • breastfeeding breaks (where breastfeeding facilities are provided at work) without loss of pay

The breaks may be taken until your child's second birthday, if needed.

These breaks may be taken in the form of:

  • 1 break of 60 minutes per day
  • 2 breaks of 30 minutes each per day
  • 3 breaks of 20 minutes per day
  • another manner as agreed between you and your employer

If no breastfeeding facilities exist, you may reduce your working day by 1 hour.

That reduction may be:

  • 1 period of 60 minutes
  • 2 periods of 30 minutes
  • 3 periods of 20 minutes
  • another manner as agreed between you and your employer

Read about breastfeeding breaks

How to apply for maternity leave

You must tell your employer that you plan to take maternity leave at least 4 weeks before you leave.

Complete the maternity leave application form HR108i (PDF, 101KB, 4 pages).

You can apply for additional maternity leave when first applying for maternity leave. Or you can apply in writing not later than 4 weeks before your maternity leave is due to end.

You may change your mind about how much maternity leave to take. You should send a written notice to your manager about this change.

National HR Employee Helpdesk

Phone: 1800 444 925


The helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12 noon