The Impact of the Pandemic felt in Analysis of Maternity & Paternity Leave – CSO

8th May 2023

Posted In: The Topic

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) recently published a Frontier Series release; Employment Analysis of Maternity and Paternity Benefits 2019-2022. Commenting on the release, Paddy Furlong, Statistician with the Statistical Systems Co-ordination Unit of the CSO, said: “There were 39,028 claims for maternity benefit paid in 2022, corresponding to 5.5 per 100 female employees. For paternity benefit, there were 25,442 claims paid in 2022 or 3.4 per 100 male employees.

Maternity Benefit

The proportion of maternity benefit recipients calculated per 100 female employees in the 15 to 44 age bracket has been declining since 2016, dropping from 6.9 per 100 in 2016 to 6.1 per 100 in 2020. There was a notable increase up to a peak level of 7.2 in 2021, before falling back to 5.5 in 2022. The 2021 peak coincides with a drop in the labour force size as well as a small increase in the birth rate for that year, both of which were most likely impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost one-third of women that started maternity leave in 2021 did not receive any payment from their employer during their leave period.

However, when considering total payments, inclusive of the maternity benefit plus any pay received from the employer, fewer than 15% of women ended up with pay lower than 50% of their pre-maternity level during leave.

Paternity Benefit

Year on year, the proportion of paternity benefit recipients per 100 employees has not varied too much since the benefit was introduced in 2016.

As with maternity benefit, there was a peak in 2021 related to the pandemic. It is notable, though, that in sectors such as Accommodation & Food Service Activities, the percentage of fathers in employment that do not take paternity benefit has substantially risen from 52% in 2017 to 73% in 2020.

Parent’s Benefit

Claims for parent’s benefit, which provides an additional number of weeks’ leave that both parents can claim up until their child’s second birthday, have risen dramatically since it was introduced in 2019.

Some 63% of maternity benefit recipients starting maternity leave in 2021 went on to take up this parent’s benefit leave. In that same year, 39% of paternity benefit recipients went on to take up this benefit.

Employers and Maternity and Paternity Benefit

In 2022, for both maternity and paternity recipients, the highest proportions were in large enterprises (250+ employees) at 6.3 per 100 female employees and 4.0 per 100 male employees respectively.

Micro-enterprises (0 to 9 employees) had the lowest benefit recipient proportions at 4.8 for maternity and 2.5 for paternity for the same year.

The sector with the highest proportion of maternity benefit recipients in 2022 was Human Health & Social Work Activities at 7.0 per 100 female employees, while Public Administration & Defence had the highest proportion of maternity benefit recipients at 5.3 per 100 male employees.

Return to Work

More than 82% of women that started maternity leave in 2020 returned to work for the same employer within six months of their maternity leave ending.

For this same cohort that started maternity leave in 2020, in the 12 months following their last maternity payment, 66% remained with the same employer, 18% were working with a new employer, 3% were on a new maternity leave, and 13% were no longer in employment.

COVID-19 Impacts

The impact of the pandemic can be seen throughout this analysis. In addition to the reduction seen in the labour force in 2021, it was noted that the cohort which started maternity leave in 2019, that were due to return to the workplace during the pandemic, were least likely to return to employment.

The cohort starting maternity leave in 2020 were least likely to receive any top-up pay from their employer during maternity leave. It will be interesting to see how the trends for benefit uptake, maternity payment, and employment status will stabilise in the years after the pandemic.”


Barry Whelan, CEO of Excel Recruitment said: “The CSO statistics shine a light on a very important area of employment in Ireland. The uptake of maternity and paternity-related benefits in the workforce has knock on impacts on the make-up and shape of Ireland’s working landscape.

It has been well documented how women often suffer because they have to take time out of the workforce to start a family – and how that career interruption can impact pay, career progression, retirement planning and a myriad of other factors.

Analysing these statistics can play a vital role in indicating where challenges lie for female employees who want to have children and also want to succeed in the workforce. It also gives us an idea of how family considerations affect male workers.

It’s often a case that although paternity leave is an entitlement for male employees – many men don’t take it because they feel like, for whatever reason, they cannot do so in their current role, company, industry etc.

At a time where staff recruitment and retention is a challenge and a focus for many employers, many companies are looking at their maternity and paternity benefit offerings as a means of attracting staff and holding onto key employees,” said Barry.