Mothers of pre-mature babies are to receive additional maternity leave and benefit, local Minister Denis Naughten has announced.
Minister Naughten confirmed the news today and said the Cabinet will sign off on the plan this morning.
Under the plan a mother will be entitled to receive an extra period of maternity leave and benefit in addition to the current statutory 26 weeks of paid maternity leave. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are considered preterm.
“The extended period of benefit would be equivalent to the duration between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the statutory maternity would have applied, which is two weeks before the expected date of birth,” confirmed Minister Naughten.
“For example where a baby is born in the 30th week the mother would receive 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 birth]. This additional period will be added to the mother’s normal entitlement of 26 weeks maternity leave and benefit,” he added.
“Some babies born prematurely can spend many months in hospital. Currently maternity leave/benefit starts from the date of birth so a mother can have used up most of her maternity leave and benefit before her baby actually comes home from hospital,” stated Minister Naughten.
Under the new plans mothers of premature babies born after October 1 this year will begin their 26 weeks maternity leave and any additional weeks of benefit due would then be paid at the end of the existing 26 week entitlement. This means that the first additional payments would be due from March 30, 2018 onwards.
Based on an average of 4,500 premature births per year and the fact that maternity benefit is currently paid in respect of 68% of births it is estimated that the full year cost of extending maternity benefit in this manner would be approximately €2.7 million.