The rules for maternity leave are governed by law. They are designed to protect the health of pregnant and breastfeeding workers and to prevent them from being terminated because of pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, special rules apply to you. These include:
- Employers may only make you work during certain hours and no more than 8.5 hours a day (on weekends only with your consent).
- You are entitled to longer rest periods and are not allowed to do work that could endanger your pregnancy.
- You may also attend preventive medical check-ups during working hours. Your employer must release you from work and may not deduct any money from your pay.
- You are given leave by your employer 6 weeks before the calculated date of birth. The employer may not require you to continue working during this period. You can only work in the six weeks before birth if you really want to and are clearly willing to do so.
Employers can only give notice to pregnant or breastfeeding women in exceptional cases. This rule can also apply even if the employer did not know that you were pregnant.
The Maternity Leave Act applies to all employers who employ pregnant or breastfeeding women. The law also applies to people with a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis), a temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or with tolerated stay (Duldung) status.
It does not matter whether you live as a woman or not. The law applies to all forms of employment relationships:
If the employment relationship is temporary, maternity leave is only valid for as long as the employment relationship exists. A temporary employment agreement is not extended because of pregnancy.
Special protection also applies in the case that:
- You do not have a work permit.
- You do not have a work permit, have been asked to leave the country or your stay is not tolerated.
If your employer does not comply with the provisions of the Maternity Leave Act, seek advice.
During the maternity leave period you cannot be deported, regardless of whether you are working or not. This ban on deportation (Abschiebe-Verbot) applies to everyone, including persons from safe countries of origin who are obligated to leave the country and who do not have tolerated stay status.
During which period does the protection against termination (Kündigungsschutz) apply?
- during the entire pregnancy from the signing of the employment agreement
- in the 4 months after the actual birth
- in the 4 months following a miscarriage (if it happens after the 12th week of pregnancy)
Protection against termination goes takes effect if the employer knows of your pregnancy at the time of termination. If he/she knows nothing about it and terminates you, you have 2 weeks after receiving a notice of termination to notify your employer about the pregnancy.
To whom does the Maternity Leave Act not apply?
- Self-employed persons (exception: persons similar to employee status)
Maternity leave applies from 6 weeks before the calculated date of birth until 8 weeks after the actual birth of the child. There are exceptions to this rule:
- Prohibition to work: Employers must protect the health of the pregnant or breastfeeding person. The first step for the employer is to improve working conditions if there is a risk to health. If this is not possible, employers must find another workplace in the company where her health is not at risk. If this is not possible either, the employer must not require the employee to work further.
- In certain cases, maternity leave after birth can be extended to 12 weeks: Premature birth, multiple births or if the child has a disability.
As soon as employers are aware of a pregnancy, they must implement the provisions of the Maternity Leave Act and protect your health. Furthermore, he/she may only terminate you in a few exceptions.
If you really want to, you can continue working during the protection period until the birth. However, the employer may not push you to do so.
After the birth, the protection period must be observed. The person may only go back to work 8 weeks after the birth. There are exceptions to this rule:
Maternity leave pay is only paid to people who had statutory health insurance on the first day of the maternity leave period and were entitled to sick pay.
While you are on maternity leave, the health insurance company will pay you the maternity leave pay (Mutterschafts-Geld). The maximum amount is 13 euros per day. You have to apply for the maternity leave pay from your health insurance fund. This can be done at the earliest 7 weeks before the expected date of birth. You need a medical certificate for the application.
If you have a mini job and family insurance, you have to apply for maternity leave pay at the maternity leave pay office. The maximum amount is then 210 euros per month.
If you are entitled to maternity leave pay, you will receive additional money from your employer. The employer contribution, together with the maternity allowance, is intended to compensate for the loss of the normal salary.
Not all people receive the employer contribution, even if they stay at home during the maternity leave period and therefore do not receive a salary. Some people only receive the maternity allowance of a maximum of 13 euros per calendar day from the health insurance fund. The following people do not receive an employer contribution:
- People with mini jobs
- Retired people
Sometimes a pregnant person is not allowed to work for medical reasons even before the protection period starts 6 weeks before the projected birth date. In these cases, the employer pays a maternity leave wage. The maternity leave wage is the average salary (before tax/gross) of the last 3 months before you became pregnant. There are no additional costs for employers. The health insurance fund repays employers for the maternity leave wage.
Employers must register all their employees with a health insurance fund at the beginning of the employment relationship. After the first day of work, employers have a maximum of 6 weeks to do this.
Not all employers respect the law.
- Some employers do not register their employees with the health insurance fund.
- Some employers unregister their employees with the health insurance fund even though the employment relationship has not ended.
You are covered by health insurance, even if the employer does not pay the health insurance contribution. The fault lies with the employer.
If you apply for a job during pregnancy, you do not have to tell your boss that you are pregnant. If you are asked directly about it, you are allowed to lie. You should inform the employer of the pregnancy as early as possible. The employer may require medical proof of the pregnancy.
As soon as the employer learns of the pregnancy, he/she must ensure that the pregnant woman’s health is protected as much as possible. This includes ensuring that certain working hours apply during the pregnancy.
You can go to the necessary preventive examinations during working hours. The employer must give you time off for it and may not deduct any money. The health insurance company can explain to you which preventive examinations are ‘necessary’.
People are particularly well protected against termination during the maternity leave period. The special protection against termination begins at the time of pregnancy and ends 4 months after giving birth.
If you are terminated and the employer is unaware of your pregnancy, you must notify the employer of your pregnancy within 2 weeks of the termination.
You cannot simply stay at home. There is currently no evidence of an increased risk of serious illness or miscarriage in pregnant women. However, there is currently still minimal data on this matter and it’s therefore difficult to make a reliable assessment.
There is special protection for pregnant women when social contact restrictions apply. Your employer must not expose you to an increased risk of infection. He/she must check whether working conditions need to be changed to better protect you from infection. He/she must also check whether you can be assigned to another job.
There is no entitlement to working from home. You may only stay at home in certain cases:
- The employer allows home office work
- or has informed you of a ban on in-person work in the company.
If you have small children then you can work fewer hours for a few months or years or take a break and only return to your old job after a few months or years. You can apply for parental leave for this purpose. Fathers can also apply for parental leave! It is important that the person looks after the child themselves or lives with a child in the same household.
When parents apply for parental leave from their employer, they have to notify the employer whether they want to not work at all during the planned parental leave or for a maximum of 30 hours per week.
Parental leave can last a maximum of 3 years.
Parental leave must always be requested from the employer. Certain deadlines apply to it.
- Parental leave before the child’s 3rd birthday must be registered at least 7 weeks before the start of parental leave.
- Parental leave in the period between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthdays must be registered at the latest 13 weeks before the start of parental leave.
Is the consent of the employer required?
- No, not if parental leave is taken before the child’s 3rd birthday.
- Yes, if part of the parental leave is taken between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthday.
Anyone who has a job at the beginning of parental leave. The following groups are included:
- People with a temporary employment agreement
- People with a mini job
- Part-time employees
- Students with a part-time job
How do you apply for parental leave pay?
During parental leave, the employer does not pay a salary. Parents can apply for parental leave pay. Certain rules apply:
- You must live in Germany.
- You live with your child.
- You look after the child yourself. It can also be your partner’s child or an adopted child.
- You do not work or work under 30 hours a week.
You can apply for parental leave pay online at Elterngeld-Digital if you live in these federal states: Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony or Thuringia.
If you live in another federal state, you have to fill in an application form. You must then send the form and the original certificates to the Parental Leave Office by post or bring them in person. Find the address of the Parental Leave Office in your area. The Parental Leave Office can help you complete the application form.
There are three types of parental leave pay: Parental Leave Pay (Eltern-Geld), Parental Leave Pay Plus (Eltern-Geld Plus) and Partnership Bonus (Partnerschafts-Bonus). Parental Leave Pay Plus is half as much money as Parental Leave Pay. You can get Parental Leave Pay Plus for twice as long. Your partner can also get 2 months Parental Leave Pay or 4 months Parental Leave Pay Plus.
Parental leave pay without parental leave time
You do not necessarily have to take parental leave to receive parental leave pay. However, you must not work more than 30 hours per week while you receive parental leave pays. You can calculate online how much parental leave pay you can get. There is a parental leave pay calculator for this purpose.
Your entitlement to parental leave pay depends on your residence status.
Special rules apply to parents with a non-German passport. Whether they receive parental leave pay depends on their nationality and residence status.
People with the following residence status can apply for parental leave pay:
- Settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis)
- Permanent EU settlement permit
- EU Blue Card, ICT Card, a Mobile ICT Card or a residence permit, which entitles (or has entitled) you to work for a period of at least 6 months – There are further restrictions. Please consult your local parental leave pay office.
Persons with the following residence status cannot apply for parental leave pay:
- Temporary resident permit (Aufenthaltsgestattung)
- Tolerated stay (Duldung)
- Vocational or continuing training in Germany
If the requirements are met, you have a right to parental leave pay. You do not have to fear any negative consequences to your residence status.
The amount of parental leave pay depends on how much money you earned before the birth. The basic parental leave pay is usually 65% of the salary (net, after taxes) you received before the birth. Parental leave pay is intended to compensate for the fact that you get less money from your employer because you work fewer hours or take a sabbatical.
- Basic parental leave pay: between 300 and 1,800 euros per month
- Parental leave pay plus: between 150 and 900 euros per month
- Partnership bonus for couples: between 150 and 900 euros per month for both parents for 4 months each
- Partnership bonus for single parents: You will receive an additional bonus of between 150 and 900 euros for 4 consecutive months if you work between 25 and 30 hours per week during these months.
Unemployed? You can also receive the minimum amount of 300 euros of parental leave pay or 150 euros of parental leave pay plus if you have had no income so far.
Special arrangements for parents with little money
If you earned between 1,240 and 1,200 euros net per month before the child was born, you will receive a little more parental leave pay. Instead of 65%, you can receive up to 67%.
Special coronavirus regulation
- Many parents receive short-time work pay (Kurzarbeiter-Geld) or unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosen-Geld I) and thus have little money. The parental leave pay will not decrease as a result. The months in which you received short-time work money or unemployment benefit I are not included in the calculation of your parental leave pay.
- If parents in system-relevant occupations cannot take their planned parental leave pay months between 1 March and 31 December 2020, they can postpone them until June 2021.
Yes. You can apply for parental leave and parental leave pay for:
- Adopted children
- Foster children
- Step-children (a heterosexual marriage or homosexual marriage with one natural parent is required in this case)