Wicklow mothers of premature babies are set to benefit from changes to maternity leave and benefit in cases of premature births.
From 1st October 2017, the period for which maternity benefit is paid is being extended in cases when a baby is born prematurely.
The extended period of benefit will be equivalent to the duration between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the maternity leave was expected to commence- ordinarily two weeks before the expected date of birth.
Minister Andrew Doyle said: “This is another sign of the Fine Gael government following a compassionate path, and creating an environment where people reach their full potential. The mothers of premature babies need to know that their country cares about them and their children. Improvements to their maternity leave and benefit demonstrates this.”
The new measures, which apply to premature babies born on or after Sunday, 1st October, will increase the duration of maternity leave and the associated maternity benefit to be paid in cases where a baby is born prematurely.
Minister Doyle welcomed the announcement which was made jointly by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D., and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D.
Minister Regina Doherty said: “I am delighted to announce that maternity leave and benefit will be extended to support families at one of the most difficult times in their lives. The Government is acutely aware of the many pressures that families with pre-term babies face. These new measures to extend maternity leave and benefit will ensure additional support for families at a time when nurturing a new life can be daunting and stressful.
“This is part of a suite of benefits that Fine Gael is introducing to improve the lives of parents, would-be parents, and their children, including Minister Simon Harris’s intention to introduce funding to assist couples seeking fertility treatments. This Government is determined to offer a helping hand when it is needed, particularly to young families.”
Under the new arrangements, in addition to the current 26 weeks of paid maternity leave a mother will be entitled to an additional period of paid maternity leave.
The additional period will commence at the end of the standard 26 week period of paid maternity leave.
The additional period to be added will be the number of weeks from the baby’s actual date of birth up to two weeks before the expected date of confinement which would have been the 37th week of the pregnancy, at which point the current entitlement to 26 weeks leave and benefit would normally begin.
So, for example where a baby is born in the 30th week of gestation the mother would have an additional entitlement of approximately seven weeks of maternity leave and benefit i.e. from the date of birth in the 30th week to the two weeks before the expected date of confinement. This additional period will be added to the mother’s normal entitlement to 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit.
Minister Doyle confirmed that the Social Protection Department will apply the additional weeks of benefit for pre-term infants born on or after October 1st where the mother meets the ordinary qualifying criteria for maternity benefit.
Minister Doyle advised new mothers of pre-term babies to claim their 26 weeks of maternity benefit as usual, or send an email to email@example.com including their contact details. They will then be contacted by the Department to ensure that any additional benefit payment is made.