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Mothers of premature babies are set to benefit from changes to maternity leave and benefit in cases of premature births says Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Equality, David Stanton. From 1st October 2017, the period for which maternity benefit is paid is being extended in cases when a baby is born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

“I am delighted to announce that maternity leave and benefit will be extended to support families at one of the most difficult times in their lives. The Government is acutely aware of the many pressures that families with pre-term babies face. These new measures to extend maternity leave and benefit for qualifying mothers will ensure additional support at a time when nurturing a new life can be daunting and stressful.

“The extended period of maternity benefit will be equivalent to the amount of time between the actual date of birth of the premature baby and the date when the maternity leave was expected to commence which is normally two weeks before the baby is due. The new measures will apply to all premature babies born on or after Sunday 1st October and will mean an addition number of weeks of maternity leave and associated maternity benefit.

“So, for example where a baby is born in the 30th week of gestation any mother entitled to maternity benefit will have an additional entitlement of approximately seven 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 due date. This additional period will be added to the mother’s normal entitlement to 26 weeks of maternity leave and benefit.

“This is the latest in a suite of benefits that the Government is introducing to improve the lives of parents, would-be parents, and their children, including Minister Simon Harris’s intention to introduce funding to assist couples seeking fertility treatments. This Government is determined to offer a helping hand when it is needed, particularly to young families.”

“From 1st October, I would advise new mothers of pre-term babies to claim their 26 weeks of maternity benefit as usual, or send an email to including their contact details. They will then be contacted by the Department to ensure that any additional benefit payment is made.