Budget 2013 Social Protection: Making maternity benefit taxable ‘specifically penalises mothers’

Young families face an even tougher battle to meet the significant costs of a newborn baby after the Government confirmed it is to cut the State support paid to new mothers.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced that from Jul 1 maternity benefit is to be treated as taxable income.

The only comfort he offered was that the benefit will continue to be exempt from the universal social charge.

“This measure will correct an anomaly so that women on maternity benefit will pay the same level of income tax as when they are working,” he said.

The move will yield €15m to the exchequer in 2013 and €40m per full year from then on.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) said taxing maternity benefit would hit expecting mothers and young families at a time when many are already operating on a very tight budget.

“The additional money that women have received so far through maternity benefit is only a small contribution to the enormous costs of having a baby,” said Orla O’Connor, director of NWCI.

Willie O’Dea, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on social protection said on top of the cut to child benefit, the “surprise additional blow of making the 26-week maternity benefit taxable rubs salt into the wound and specifically penalises mothers”.

Meanwhile, primary teachers’ union the INTO described as “regressive and unfair” the budget decision to cut pregnant teachers’ entitlement to time in lieu for some holidays that fall during maternity leave.

Sheila Nunan, INTO general secretary, said the union would closely examine the implications of the decision on equality grounds and would seek advice.

She said significant progress on equality issues had been made over many years.

“We are gravely concerned by any measure which rolls back progress. Any issue that negatively affects working mothers is unacceptable.”

All working women including teachers are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave.

INTO said in most jobs a woman retains her entitlement to her annual leave, which may then be taken after maternity leave.

“Teachers do not have flexibility over holidays and so had time in lieu to compensate for some holidays accrued during maternity leave,” it said. “The budget removes a teacher’s entitlement of up to 30 days’ time in lieu for holidays that fall during maternity leave.”

Teachers will retain 26 weeks of statutory maternity leave.

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