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[excerpts]

MATERNITY PROTECTION ACT, 1994

Entitlement to maternity leave

8.(1) Subject to this Part, a pregnant employee shall be entitled to leave, to be known (and referred to in this Act) as "maternity leave", from her employment for a period (in this Part referred to as "the minimum period of maternity leave") of not less than 14 consecutive weeks.

(2) The Minister may by order, made with the consent of the Minister for Social Welfare and the consent of the Minister for Finance, amendsubsection (1)so as to extend the period mentioned in that subsection.

Notification to employer

9.(1) Entitlement to the minimum period of maternity leave shall be subject to a pregnant employee-

(a) having, as soon as reasonably practicable but not later than four weeks before the commencement of maternity leave, notified in writing her employer (or caused her employer to be so notified) of her intention to take maternity leave; and

(b) having, at the time of the notification, given to her employer or produced for her employer's inspection a medical or other appropriate certificate confirming the pregnancy and specifying the expected week of confinement.

(2) A notification under this section may be revoked by a further notification in writing by the employee concerned to her employer.

Employees to whom Part III applies

17.This Part applies to-

(a) pregnant employees;

(b) employees who have recently given birth; and

(c) employees who are breastfeeding.

Leave on health and safety grounds

18.(1) If, by regulations under the 1989 Act implementing the 1992 Directive, an employer is required to move an employee to whom this Part applies to other work (whether as a result of a risk assessment or because the employee cannot be required to perform night work), but-

(a) it is not technically or objectively feasible for the employer to move the employee as required by the regulations, or

(b) such a move cannot reasonably be required on duly substantiated grounds, or

(c) the other work to which the employer proposes to move the employee is not suitable for her,

the employee shall be granted leave from her employment under this section.

(2) Where an employee is granted leave under this section, she shall be entitled to receive, on request to her employer, a certificate, in such form as may be determined by regulations-

(a) stating that she has been granted leave for whichever of the reasons in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1) is appropriate in the circumstances and containing such supplementary information as the regulations may require; and

(b) specifying the date on which the leave began and its expected duration.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) (c), other work is suitable for an employee if it is-

(a) of a kind which is suitable in relation to the employee concerned, as an employee to whom this Part applies; and

(b) appropriate for the employee to do in all the circumstances.

(4) For the first 21 days of leave granted to an employee by an employer under this section in any relevant period, the employee shall be entitled to receive from the employer remuneration of an amount determined in accordance with regulations.

(5) Regulations under subsection (2) or subsection (4) shall be made by the Minister after consultation with-

(a) the Minister for Finance;

(b) the Minister for Social Welfare; and

(c) the Minister for Enterprise and Employment.

(6) In subsection (4) "relevant period", in relation to an employee, means the period beginning with her pregnancy and continuing beyond any confinement resulting from that pregnancy until she ceases to be an employee who has recently given birth or, as the case may be, an employee who is breastfeeding.

(7) Regulations under subsection (4) may provide that such day or days as may be determined under the regulations shall be left out of account in calculating the 21 days referred to in that subsection

Interpretation of Part IV

21.(1) In this Part-

"natal care absence", in relation to an employee, means a period of absence from her work to which the employee is entitled in accordance with regulations under section 15; and

"protective leave" means-

(a) maternity leave;

(b) additional maternity leave,

(c) leave to which a father is entitled under subsection (1) or subsection (4) of section 16; or

(d) leave granted under section 18.

(2) Where protective leave of one description is immediately followed by protective leave of another description, the time on leave shall be treated for the purposes of this Part as one continuous period of protective leave.

Preservation or suspension of certain rights, etc. while on protective leave, etc

22.(1) During a period of absence from work by an employee while on-

(a) maternity leave,

(b) subsection (1) ( a ) leave, as defined in section 16 (3), or

(c) leave granted under section 18,

and during a period of natal care absence, the employee shall be deemed to have been in the employment of the employer and, accordingly, while so absent the employee shall, subject to subsection (6) and section 24, be treated as if she had not been so absent; and such absence shall not affect any right (other than, except in the case of natal care absence, the employee's right to remuneration during such absence), whether conferred by statute, contract or otherwise, and related to the employee's employment.

(2) In respect of a period of absence from work by an employee while on-

(a) additional maternity leave,

(b) subsection (1) (b) leave, as defined in section 16 (3), or

(c) further leave under section 16 (4),

the period of employment before such absence shall be regarded as continuous with the employee's employment following such absence in respect of any right (other than the right to remuneration during such absence) whether conferred by statute, contract or otherwise, and related to the employee's employment.

(3) Nothing in this section affects-

(a) an employee's right to be offered suitable alternative employment under section 27; or

(b) an employee's right to remuneration in accordance with section 18 (4).

(4) A period of absence from work while on protective leave shall not be treated as part of any other leave (including sick leave or annual leave) to which the employee concerned is entitled.

General right to return to work on expiry of protective leave

26.(1) Subject to this Part, on the expiry of a period during which an employee was absent from work while on protective leave, the employee shall be entitled to return to work-

(a) with the employer with whom she was working immediately before the start of that period or, where during the employee's absence from work there was a change of ownership of the undertaking in which she was employed immediately before her absence, with the owner (in this Act referred to as "the successor") of the undertaking at the expiry of the period of absence,

(b) in the job which the employee held immediately before the start of that period, and

(c) under the contract of employment under which the employee was employed immediately before the start of that period, or, where a change of ownership such as is referred to in paragraph ( a ) has occurred, under a contract of employment with the successor which is identical to the contract under which the employee was employed immediately before the start of that period, and (in either case) under terms or conditions not lessfavourable than those that would have been applicable to the employee if she had not been so absent from work.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) (b), where the job held by an employee immediately before the start of the period of her absence on protective leave was not the employee's normal or usual job, the employee shall be entitled to return to work, either in her normal or usual job or in that job as soon as is practicable without contravention by the employee or the employer of any provision of a statute or instrument made under statute.

(3) In this section "job", in relation to an employee, means the nature of the work which she is employed to do in accordance with her contract of employment and the capacity and place in which she is so employed.