Now that you are pregnant, you may be wondering about how this affects your job, maternity leave, how to apply and what monies you are entitled to also known as planning ahead. The National Insurance Maternity Benefit is paid once you are insured and away from work as a result pregnancy.
The benefit consists of
- a weekly payment of a Maternity Allowance (to maximum of 14 weeks paid in a lump sum) and
- a Maternity Grant of $3,750.00.
If you don’t qualify for the National Insurance Maternity Benefit for any reason, your spouse can apply for The Special Maternity Grant. This is payable to your husband; legal or common law whether you are employed, underemployed or unemployed once he is insured.
The benefit is not paid if a pregnancy has lasted less than 26 weeks unless the pregnancy resulted in a live birth.
Requirements to obtain maternity benefits
To qualify for maternity benefits under the Act, you must:
- be between 16 – 65 years of age
- be working for your employer continuously for at least one year before the expected delivery date as certified by a doctor.
- If you are daily-rated employee, you must have worked for at least 150 days in a period of one year;
- you must inform your employer, in writing, at least eight weeks before the expected delivery date that you need leave because of your pregnancy;
- you must submit to your employer a medical certificate from a doctor, stating the expected delivery date; and
- you must inform your employer in writing that you intend to return to work when your maternity leave is over.
Maternity benefits 13 weeks’ leave
- You are entitled to 13 weeks’ (three months) maternity leave
- You can go on leave six weeks before the expected delivery date as stated in the medical certificate or at a subsequent date at your boss’s discretion.
- You are required to return to work no later than 13 weeks from the date you took leave.
- If your baby is born premature or dies either at birth or within the period of leave, you are still entitled to the entire 13 weeks with pay.
- Maternity leave is in addition to any vacation leave and sick leave that you are eligible for.
Time off for prenatal care
- Your boss must not unreasonably refuse time off with pay during work for you to go to the doctor for prenatal care.
- During maternity leave, you are entitled to receive one month’s leave with full pay and two months’ leave with half pay.
- You are entitled to the remaining two months’ half pay from the National Insurance Board.
- If the two in total is less than your full pay, the employer must pay you the difference.
Where an employer has failed to pay contributions under that National Insurance Act and no maternity benefits are payable by the National Insurance Board, the employer must pay you the entire three months’ pay.
- If you are incapable of returning to work after the 13 weeks for medical reasons, either for yourself or the baby, you can request additional time off for a further period not exceeding 12 weeks.
- You must inform the employer in writing of the date on which you intend to return to work and provide a medical certificate.
- During this additional period, you are entitled to be paid half pay for the first six weeks and no pay for the next six weeks.
- You may be able to obtain sickness benefits for the remaining salary from the National Insurance Board.
- You may also postpone you return to work for non-medical reasons for no more than four weeks.
- You must give your employer written notice within ten working days, before the end of the 13 weeks, stating the reason why you are unable to return to work and state your intended return date.
- During this period, you are not entitled to be paid by the employer.
Limit on benefits
- There is no limit on your right to maternity leave, but the right to be paid for maternity leave is limited to once every two years from the beginning of the leave.
- you must apply on time to ensure that you receive your benefit
- 0-3 months – this is considered on time and it can be accepted
- 3-12 months – this is considered late and may be accepted with good cause
- 12 months and over – this is considered late and shall be disallowed
- Once on maternity leave you can not be deprived of an opportunity to be considered for promotion for which you are eligible and which may arise during your period of leave.
- The time period for calculating pension or terminal benefits is not affected by the period of maternity leave.
Maternity leave in Trinidad and Tobago is governed by the Maternity Protection Act Chap 45:57. You must be warned though, if you or your boss do not follow the rules of this Act this can become a legal matter:
- If you are terminated on the ground of pregnancy or any ground relating to pregnancy, the matter would be considered a trade dispute under the Industrial Relation Act and be referred to the Minister of Labour
- and if not resolved it can be referred to the Industrial Court.
- Any forms to fill out or additional information can be found at The National Insurance Board