With the exception of the right to remuneration, all other employment rights are preserved during the maternity and/or additional maternity leave period. Generally, superannuation contributions should continue to be paid during the maternity leave period but need not necessarily be paid during the additional maternity leave period.
No right to pay
Some employers may continue to pay their employees while they are on maternity leave but that is a contractual right only and may be subject to conditions such as a 12 month minimum service period before the leave is taken. During the maternity leave period there may be an entitlement to social welfare or statutory maternity benefit. There is a standardised rate of €230 per week for all qualifying claimants. Since 1 July 2013 maternity benefit has been taxable for all claimants. The Universal Social Charge (USC) will not apply.
Continuity of service and annual leave
Continuity of service and entitlement to annual leave including public holidays are all preserved while on maternity and/or additional maternity leave.
For more information on leave entitlements, see our factsheet on the topic.
Termination during maternity leave
Termination of an individual’s contract of employment while they are absent from work on maternity leave is void. Termination during additional maternity leave, pregnancy related health and safety leave, during a period of ante- or post-natal care or during the period that they are still breastfeeding in accordance with the breastfeeding regulations is also void. Additionally, any notice of termination served during any of these periods is void.
If a notice of termination of employment is given to an employee before that employee has served notice of their intention to take maternity leave, and this notice of termination is due to expire during the employee’s absence from work or during a period of ante- or post-natal care or during the period that they are still breastfeeding, then the notice is extended by this period.
Where an employee has given notice of her intention to take maternity leave and subsequent to that a redundancy situation arises, notice of redundancy should only start to run after the return to work date.
For more information, see our factsheets on dismissal and redundancy.
Right to return to work
Employees have the right to return to work with the same employer for whom they were working prior to the start of their leave. In the case of a change of ownership of an undertaking, employees have a right to work with the new employer in the job they held immediately before the start of their maternity leave under terms and conditions not less favourable to those which would have been applicable to the employee had they not been absent from work.
For more information about transfer of undertakings (TUPE), see our factsheet on the topic.
Where it is not reasonably practicable for the employer or its successor to permit the employee to return to work in the same position and under the same terms and conditions of employment, the employee is entitled to be offered suitable alternative work by the employer under a new contract of employment, the terms of which are not less favourable to the employee than those of her previous contract.
Entitlement to return to work or to be offered suitable alternative work is subject to an employee, not later than four weeks before the date on which she expects to return to work, notifying her employer in writing of her intention to return to work and the date on which she expects to return.
In Cahill v Focus Suites Ireland (UD723/2013), the employee was told upon her return from unpaid maternity leave that, due to financial difficulties, her role was no longer available. Her employer did say alternative employment would be offered, but they did not give details and failed to tell her that the company was planning to go into liquidation. The EAT was highly critical of the lack of consultation and honesty as well as the fact that the company did not actually commence liquidation until several months after her return. She was awarded €26,992.84.
In Olga Barabola v Tulane Business Management Limited t/a Ballsbridge Hotel (MPD163), the employee worked with the company as a night auditor for a number of years. Due to a backlog of accounting work, she was given a temporary role as an accounts assistant. At this point, she went on maternity leave. She then sought to return to this accounts assistant role permanently. She was offered the role of 'senior receptionist' instead, which was substantively the same job as night auditor. The Labour Court concluded that there had been no breach of the Maternity Protection Acts because her role was the same, but for the title, and she was not returning to adverse work conditions.