Cabinet approval

Extension of maternity benefit to mothers of premature babies

Social Welfare Bill 2017

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Minister Denis Naughten has confirmed the Government has today approved an extension of maternity leave and maternity benefit to mothers of premature babies. The Government approved the measures at its weekly Cabinet meeting as part of discussions on the Social Welfare Bill 2017.

“This means a mother of a premature baby is entitled to receive an extra period of maternity leave and maternity benefit in addition to the current statutory 26 weeks of paid maternity leave,” explained Minister Naughten. “Under the new measure mothers of premature babies born after October 1st 2017 would begin their 26 weeks maternity leave and any additional weeks of benefit due, at the end of the existing 26 week entitlement. This means that the first additional payments would be due from 30 March 2018 onwards.

“For example where a baby is born in the 30th week the mother would receive an additional entitlement of approximately 7 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,” added Minister Naughten.

“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.”

Minister Naughten also confirmed Cabinet approval of the Social Welfare Bill 2017 which puts into law the measures announced in Budget 2018 which are due to come into effect from or after 1 January 2018.

These measures include increased rates of payment for:

- An increase of €5 in all maximum weekly pension payments, including State Pension Contributory and Non-Contributory, Widow’s, Widower’s, Surviving Civil Partner’s and Disablement Pension with proportionate increases for those on reduced rates of payment. Proportionate increases for qualified adult dependants were also provided for;

- an increase of €5 in all maximum weekly benefits and allowances, including Maternity/Paternity/Adoptive Benefit, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Carer’s Benefit, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, One-Parent Family Payment, Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Farm Assist with proportionate increases for those in receipt of reduced rate payments. Jobseekers aged under 26 on a reduced rate payment will receive the full €5 increase per week. Proportionate increases for qualified adult dependants were also provided for;

- an increase of €2 per week in the Qualified Child Increase (QCI) – the additional payment paid with social welfare payments in respect of children aged up to 18, or up to age 22 where the child concerned is engaged in full-time education.

Working Family Payment (formerly Family Income Supplement)
- an increase of €10 in the weekly earnings thresholds to give effect to increases in payment to recipients who have up to three children is also being provided for with effect from week commencing 26th March 2018.

Back to Work Family Dividend
- the removal of the existing provisions which closed the Back to Work Family Dividend scheme to new entrants with effect from end-March 2018 and the removal of the ‘sunset clause’ which would have closed the scheme entirely with effect from 2021.

One-Parent Family Payment
- an increase in the earnings disregard for the One-Parent Family Payment from €110 to €130 per week with effect from 26th March 2018.

- the payment of a Christmas bonus (85%) in the week commencing 27th November 2017 to recipients of a long-term social welfare payment;

- an increase in the earnings disregard for Jobseeker’s Transition Payment from €110 to €130 per week with effect from the week commencing 26th March 2018.