New maternity leave provisions signed into law

Mothers will be able to take four weeks extra paid maternity leave from next month, as the new provisions from the Budget kick in.

The order to increase paid maternity leave to 22 weeks next month and to 26 weeks in March next year was signed into law today by Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

Mothers will also be able to take more unpaid maternity leave, with the length of time increasing to from eight weeks to 12 weeks, and to 16 weeks next year.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the increases would significantly improve existing leave entitlements for working mothers.

“They will offer greater choice to parents in how they decide to care for their child in the early stages of its life,” he said.

The increase in paid and unpaid maternity means that mothers can spend almost a full year (42 weeks) with their newborn child.

Paid adoptive leave is also to be increased from 16 weeks to 20 weeks, and to 24 weeks next year. Unpaid adoptive leave will be increased from eight weeks to 12 weeks, and to 16 weeks next year.

However, only the adoptive mother is entitled to avail of adoptive leave from work, except in the case where a man is the sole adopter.

“These increases bring the total maternity and adoptive leave entitlements to 42 and 40 weeks respectively, an increase of 133% and 186% since 1997,” said Mr McDowell.

Under the changes announced in Finance Minister Brian Cowen’s budget, the rate of maternity benefit paid is to be increased from 75% to 80% of reckonable earnings.

Mr Cowen has said that the pressures on parents can be at their greatest in the first year of a child’s life, particularly because the cost of caring for infants is higher than for older children.

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