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Delayed maternity payment: 'It seemed my application had been "forgotten about"'

Pay us properly and pay us on time, writes Nicola Cassidy.

Nicola Cassidy Marketing manager and parenting blogger

“YOUR WAIT TIME is 45 minutes. Please hold.” I stare at the baby in my arms and wonder if she’ll stay asleep or if I can manage to get her into the cot one armed, while holding my mobile. I don’t have the time to wait. I hang up. I’ll try again later.

Later, it’s the same story. Almost an hour wait time on a costly phone line, while holding baby and hoping my two-year-old will allow Mammy the time needed to stay on the phone. She doesn’t. She wants juice. And Peppa Pig is over.

I hang up, sigh and decide to send an email. It goes unanswered. I’m not really sure what to do next.

Delayed maternity payment

This was my experience of trying to contact the Department of Social Protection over my delayed maternity benefit payment in February of this year.

I’d taken my maternity leave in January and despite being a bit late putting the paperwork in (I sent it in four weeks in advance, instead of the required six. Those forms are monstrous, forgive me) I had no idea when or if I would be receiving the benefit.

Eventually, after finally getting through on the phone, I spoke to a man who told me that it seemed my application had been “forgotten about” but that he would push it through quickly. I was lucky. I was only delayed by a few weeks.

€235 a week

When I talk about maternity benefit to friends or family, most are surprised to hear that you effectively “go on the dole” during your leave. The statutory benefit is €235 per week.

Some companies do pay top ups to their staff and most State employees that I know receive their full wages during maternity leave, but many workers, generally in the private sector, do not.

The dichotomy between those who receive top up pay and those that receive minimum payment has a number of knock on effects.

Those on the minimum benefit will find it harder to take unpaid leave at the end of their maternity leave, because it will be financially impossible. This means mothers who receive lesser packages are forced to return to work earlier, quit breastfeeding in some cases, and put children into childcare earlier than they want to.

It’s recommended that babies should be exclusively breastfed until six months, before starting solid food. Not so easy, when your benefit runs out when the child is five months old and Mammy needs to go back to work.

Varadkar urged companies to be “generous”

Recently, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar encouraged companies to be “as generous as possible” with their maternity packages. Words are one thing. Actions are another.

Did you know that maternity benefit is taxed? That this was a measure slipped in by the last government which means that when a woman returns to work she pays back a portion of the benefit paid in the first place? Yep, great support for working mothers there Mr Varadkar.

Anyone with children will know what a short time they are babies. That first year passes in a blur, and it’s a demanding, magical and life changing period. It’s also a relatively short time in a woman’s working life and with smaller families and maternal age on the rise, allowing women to choose to stay at home by offering proper financial support during this time ensures that our children are given the best start in life, as well as easing the demand on childcare facilities.

We shouldn’t be penalised for giving birth

We should not be penalised for giving birth to our future workforce. We should be encouraged and helped and not forced to beg for benefits that are rightfully ours.

Childcare is one of the biggest issues facing this government. Pleading ministerial comments urging businesses to be nice to pregnant women is not the way forward. Neither is allowing a Department to fall so far behind in its administration that it cannot process a benefit for people who are at their most vulnerable, physically, mentally and financially.

Pay us properly and pay us on time. Please. For the sake of the children.

Nicola Cassidy is a marketing manager and creative writer. She writes a lifestyle and parenting blog at www.ladynicci.com.

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About the author:

Nicola Cassidy  / Marketing manager and parenting blogger

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