If you are having a baby in Ireland, there is a range of supports for parents and children. This document gives a general overview of these supports.
Health and safety
If you become pregnant while in employment and you are exposed to certain risks in the workplace, or you are involved in nightwork (nightwork means that you spend at least three hours or 50% of your work between midnight-7am), you may be entitled to health and safety leave from work. If you are entitled to health and safety leave and you have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions, you may qualify for Health and Safety Benefit during your leave. If you are breastfeeding at work, you may also be entitled to health and safety leave and Health and Safety Benefit.
After your pregnancy is confirmed, you may take time off for medical visits (sometimes called antenatal visits or appointments ) connected with the pregnancy. There is no maximum or minimum amount of time off specified for these visits. Rather, you are entitled to reasonable time off – this means the time that you need for each visit and includes both the time required to travel to and from the appointment and the time for the appointment itself. You are entitled to be paid during these antenatal visits.
Antenatal classes give you information about pregnancy, labour and delivery, and baby care. Before the birth you are entitled to take paid time off work to attend one set of antenatal classes (however, not the last 3 in the set). This is a once-off right which covers all pregnancies while in employment. Expectant fathers have a once-off right to attend the last 2 antenatal classes in the set.
Maternity leave and Maternity Benefit
All female employees in Ireland, no matter how long they have been working, are entitled to take maternity leave for a basic period of 26 weeks. At least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby’s expected birth and at least four weeks after.
If a mother dies within 40 weeks of the birth, the father or other parent is entitled to maternity leave from work.
During your maternity leave, you may be entitled to Maternity Benefit if you meet social insurance contribution conditions.
Additional (unpaid) maternity leave
You can take up to a further 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave immediately after your maternity leave ends. This additional maternity leave is often called ‘unpaid maternity leave’ because you are not covered by Maternity Benefit and your employer does not have to pay you during it.
Paternity leave and Paternity Benefit
New parents (but not the mother of the child) are entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child. Paternity Benefit is a weekly payment to a parent on paternity leave from work who is covered by social insurance (PRSI). You can start paternity leave at any time within the first 6 months after the birth or adoption placement.
Parent’s leave and Parent’s Benefit
Parent’s leave is a new statutory entitlement for parents. It aims to let working parents spend more time with their baby or adopted child during the first year. Each parent is entitled to 2 weeks of paid parent’s leave for a child born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019. Currently, parent’s leave is 2 weeks but it may be increased in the future (up to a maximum of 9 weeks). Parent’s leave is available to both employees and people who are self-employed .
Parent’s Benefit is paid while you are on parent’s leave from work if you have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions.
Child Benefit is a monthly payment to the parents or guardians of children under 16 years of age. In general, Child Benefit is payable from the first day of the month after the child is born. It is paid at higher rates for multiple births such as twins or triplets.
Free GP visits for children under 6
The GP visit card for children under 6 covers free GP visits, including home visits and urgent out of hours GP care. If your child already has a medical card, you do not need to register them for a GP visit card. However, if your family circumstances change and your family is no longer eligible for medical cards, you can then register your children for GP visit cards for children under 6.
There are no specific tax reliefs for children. However, the Single Person Child Carer Credit is a tax credit for people who are caring for children on their own. There is also an Incapacitated Child Tax Credit if your child is permanently incapacitated and a Home Carer Tax Credit where one spouse is caring for a child or dependant person. There are also other tax credits and allowances which families can avail of.
Social welfare supports
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection provides social welfare payments to support families with children for people in low-paid employment and people parenting alone. Some payments are means-tested and others are based on social insurance contributions.
If you can not pay for the extra costs associated with your baby you may be able to apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
When you return to work you may be able to take parental leave. Both parents are entitled to take 26 weeks of parental leave for each eligible child. You must take parental leave before your child’s 12th birthday. Parental leave is unpaid. Generally, you must have been working for your employer for a year before you can take parental leave.
Early childhood care and pre-school education
The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme was introduced in Ireland in 2010. ECCE provides free early childhood care and education for 2 years for children of pre-school age for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks from September to June (the school year).
The new National Childcare Scheme (NCS) ‘wraps-around’ the free pre-school programme, providing financial support towards the cost of childcare for the hours spent outside of pre-school. The National Childcare Scheme provides 2 types of childcare subsidy paid directly to your chosen childcare provider. Children must be attending a childcare provider registered with Tusla (including childminders and school-age childcare services).