Know Your Rights: Maternity leave


I recently started working in a new job on a part-time basis. I have just learned that I am pregnant – will I be entitled to maternity leave?

Answer (January 2018)

If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment applies to all female employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours you work per week. You are also entitled to additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work, including maternity leave.

You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Your entitlement to pay and superannuation (pension payments) during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) if you have enough PRSI contributions. However an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.

If you have a dispute with your employer about maternity leave or if you have been dismissed due to a matter connected with your pregnancy or for claiming your rights under maternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within six months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on The time limit may be extended for up to a further six months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.

You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your baby’s due date. Apply to the Maternity Benefit Section of the DEASP.

Are you registered to vote?

The Register of Electors for 2018-2019 was published on 1 February 2018 and comes into force on 15 February 2018. You can check to see if your name is on the Register.

If you are eligible to vote but are not on the Register of Electors, you can apply to be included in a supplement to it, using Form RFA2.

If you are on the Register but have changed address, you use form RFA3 to apply for inclusion on the supplement at your new address. This will also remove you from the register for your previous address.

You can apply at any time. However, you can only be included in the supplement used at an election or referendum if your local authority receives your application at least 15 days before polling day. Sundays, public holidays and Good Friday are not counted as days for this purpose.

Read more about registering to vote.

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is an EU wide initiative to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people. This year it takes place on Tuesday 6 February. The theme for Safer Internet Day 2018 is “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”.

Find out more about how to stay safe when using the internet on

CAO dates in 2018

You apply for almost all full-time undergraduate courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO). The CAO provides a handbook that lists all the courses on offer and gives information on how to apply. The closing date for 2018 applications from Irish and other European Union nationals is 5.15 pm on 1 February 2018. Late applications are allowed up to 5.15 pm on 1 May 2018. You can get a full list of dates on the CAO website.

Decisions on offers of places are normally made in August, after the results of the Leaving Certificate have come out.

Application deadlines and fees for 2018

Early online discounted rate € 30 20 Jan 2018 (5:15pm) – now closed
Normal online application € 45 1 Feb 2018 (5:15 pm)
Late online application € 60 1 May 2018 (5:15 pm)
Change of mind (opens from 5 May 2018) Nil 1 July 2018 (5:15 pm)

You could  amend your course choices free of charge until 31 January (the day before the normal application deadline). From 5 February to 1 March 2018 you can pay €10 to amend your course choices online. There is a further chance to change your mind, free of charge, from 5 May 2018.

Late applications are not accepted for the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes or for certain restricted courses. You must apply for these by 5.15 pm on 1 February 2018.

Read our document on applying to college.

Changes to State Pension (Contributory) rules

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has announced changes to how the State Pension (Contributory) is calculated. The changes aim to ensure that all of a person’s social insurance contributions, rather than when they were paid, are taken into account when assessing their entitlement to a pension.

The new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) will include a new HomeCaring credit. This will provide credited contributions for up to 20 years of homemaking and caring duties. The changes will particularly benefit women who spent time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in caring roles.

The TCA will come into effect on 30 March 2018. It will also be available to anyone who reached pension age after 1 September 2012, when the revised rate bands took effect.  As a result the Department will invite over 40,000 current pensioners to have their pensions recalculated under TCA. Invitations are expected to be sent out in late 2018.

Pensioners do not need to contact the Department or do anything else until they get a letter from the Department nearer the end of 2018.

The first payments will be made in early 2019, with payment backdated to 30 March 2018.


New affordable housing schemes

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has announced details of 3 schemes aimed at making homes more affordable for buyers and renters:

  • The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan
  • The Affordable Purchase Scheme
  • The Affordable Rental Scheme

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan will provide local authority mortgages with reduced interest rates to first-time buyers. The loans can be used for new and second-hand properties, or to build a home. Buyers can borrow up to 90% of the market value of the property. The loans will have interest rates of 2% to 2.25% and buyers can fix the rates for the term of the mortgage, so they have the same repayments for the lifetime of the loan. Your household income must be below certain limits. Buyers must be able to show that they can afford the loan repayments and have had two insufficient offers or refusals for a mortgage from two lending institutions. The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan will be available nationwide from local authorities from Thursday, 1 February 2018. For more information about the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan and income limits see

Under the Affordable Purchase Scheme local authorities will provide state-owned land at reduced or no cost to developers to facilitate the building of affordable homes. Eligible buyers can then buy these affordable homes at a discount. The State will retain an equity share in each affordable home, which can be paid off, interest free, by the purchaser at a later date. Initial sites and finance have been provided for this scheme.

The Affordable Rental Scheme aims to tackle affordability issues in the rental market, using a cost rental model. Cost rental means that the level of rent paid to a landlord provides them with a minimal profit, while still covering the cost of building the property, ongoing management and maintenance charges. This means renters have greater certainty about their rent. This scheme is currently in a pilot phase.

Know Your Rights: Home Renovation Incentive


I am planning to extend my home. How can I claim the Home Renovation Incentive?

Answer (November 2017)

The Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme enables homeowners or landlords to claim tax relief on repairs, renovations or improvement work that is carried out on their main home or rental property by tax-compliant contractors and that is subject to 13.5% VAT. It is also available to local authority tenants who have written consent from the local authority to carry out the works.

HRI is paid as a tax credit at 13.5% of qualifying expenditure, which can be set against your income tax over 2 years. You must be paying income tax to avail of HRI. You must also be up to date with your Local Property Tax (LPT) obligations.

Your contractor must be registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) in Ireland and be tax compliant. They also have to register the work on the HRI online administration system. If you use several contractors, such as a builder, a plumber and an electrician, you can combine the cost of the works to make up the minimum qualifying expenditure of €5,000 including VAT at 13.5%.

Repair, renovation or improvement work subject to VAT at 13.5% all qualify for the HRI, including extensions and attic conversions; supply and fitting of kitchens, bathrooms and built-in wardrobes; fitting of windows; plumbing, tiling, rewiring and plastering. Work subject to VAT at 23% is not covered. Neither are items such as furniture, white goods or carpets.

The work must be done and paid for by 31 December 2018. In general, the credit is paid over the 2 years following the year in which the work is done and paid for.

After work starts you should log in to HRI online to check that your contractor(s) have entered details of the work – if they have not, you will not be able to claim the credit. Once the work has been completed, you can claim the HRI credit. You access the HRI online system through Revenue’s myAccount service or through the Revenue Online Service (ROS) if you are registered for ROS.

There is detailed information about HRI on


Know Your Rights: Accessing healthcare abroad


There is a long wait for a medical procedure that I need. Can I get my medical costs refunded if I have the procedure done in another European country?

Answer (December 2017)

If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA). You will be repaid the cost if you meet the requirements.

This is provided for by the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive. The Directive covers services that are publicly funded and available in Ireland. These include acute hospital services and community-based outpatient care. Other services covered include physiotherapy, ophthalmic, psychology, disability and mental health services. Occupational therapy services and dental and orthodontic services are also covered, but with some exceptions. The Directive doesn’t cover treatments that qualify for the Treatment Abroad Scheme (in general, treatments that are not available in Ireland).

You must be referred to the health service abroad in the same way that you would be referred to public health services in Ireland. This referral may be by your GP (family doctor) or public hospital consultant, for example. They may also be able to tell you whether the service you require is covered by the Directive. You can also check with the National Contact Point (details below).

If the treatment involves an overnight stay in hospital, it will need to be authorised in advance by the Health Service Executive (HSE). For other treatments, you should check whether prior authorisation is required. You pay the costs of treatment and then apply for a refund when you return to Ireland. The amount repaid is either the amount that the treatment would cost in Ireland, or the cost of your treatment abroad, if that is less. It does not include other costs such as travel. The HSE has published refund amounts for different treatments. To get a refund of treatment costs, you and your healthcare provider abroad must complete a HSE form. You then submit it with the healthcare provider invoice and receipt. The HSE provides an invoice format that it recommends using for the invoice to make sure it includes all the required details.

To find out more, contact the National Contact Point: phone (056) 778 4546 or email