German maternity and parental leave benefits are rich and cover a wide spectrum of leave and benefits in part because the country is struggling to motivate young people to have children. Benefits range from cash to extended leave and job protection. Since maternity and paternity leave does not exist in the traditional sense, these benefits are generally available to both mothers and fathers. That said, women do enjoy special protection, which is also intended to protect the unborn child.
The following lists summarize what employers need to know about German maternity and parental leave benefits.
- All German nationals and foreigners (including dependents) living in Germany are required to have health insurance through which they receive health benefits. This includes pediatric and OB/GYN medical care at no additional cost.
- Pregnant women in an employment relationship enjoy enhanced protection at work and employers must carry out and document an assessment to ensure that the mother and the unborn child are not exposed to any danger or risks. If necessary, changes must be made to eliminate such danger or risks.
- As soon as an employee informs the employer of the pregnancy, they employee enjoys protection against dismissal and the employment relationship cannot be terminated until 4 months after birth of the child.
- If a woman is unable to work due to complications with her pregnancy, she is entitled to her full salary for as long as necessary. This may mean throughout the pregnancy. This applies for job protection as well.
- Women (biological mothers) enjoy maternity protection periods, 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after birth and, in the case of premature or multiple births, 12 weeks after birth are generally not permitted to work.
- During these protection periods, women in employment who are publicly insured, either by law, or because they have chosen to remain with a state health insurer, are eligible for maternity benefits and may not suffer a reduction or loss of earnings.
- During these protection periods, the employee does not receive their salary from the employer only, but an allowance from both the insurer and the employer. This allowance is based on the employee’s average net earnings of the 3 months prior to the protection period, and is broken down into a fixed rate per day. The health insurance fund only pays a maximum of €13 per calendar day such that if the employee’s calculated average earnings per day exceed the amount of €13, the employer is obliged to pay the difference.
- Privately insured women, or those co-insured with a family member, receive a one time payment of €210 from the Federal Social Insurance Office. and whatever amount they negotiated with their private insurance provider.
- The employee is required to apply for the allowance from their health insurance provider, which in turn requires a statement of earnings from the employer.
- Fathers do not enjoy any protection periods, however they commonly receive 1-2 days paid time off on the birth of a child. Nevertheless, both parents have the right to take parental leave up to the child’s completion of age 3. Fathers who want to spend more time with their newborn must apply for parental leave. Similarly, mothers who want to stay home after the protection periods go on ‘parental leave’, not ‘maternity leave.’
- It is not mandatory for employees to take parental leave. Both parents may take this leave simultaneously or in turns. Each parent is entitled to 3 years.
- Parental leave must be applied for 7 weeks in advance and may be split into 3 blocks periods.
- The employer’s consent is only required for the first part and for any changes to already agreed upon dates.
- The last part of parental leave (up to 2 years) may be postponed and taken between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthdays. Although employees are required to give notice, the employer’s consent is not required.
- Employees on parental leave enjoy job protection and may not be dismissed. Their positions must be maintained and they have the right to return to the same, or if this is no longer practical, to a similar position thereafter.
- Although employees enjoy job protection while on parental leave, the employment contract is nevertheless suspended during this time, meaning that the employer does not have to pay the employee. Consequently, the employee receives, on application, an allowance for up to 14 months from the government. The rest of the leave is unpaid.
- The amount of the allowance depends on the employee’s salary in the 12 months before the birth of the child. In the case of adoption, the salary at the time at which the child starts living with the parents is decisive.
- The allowance is, in simplest terms, between 60-67% of the average earnings of the last 12 months before birth. However, it is capped at €1.800 per month (minimum €300) and is tax and social security contribution free.
- Any income earned while receiving a parental allowance from the state must be reported and will reduce the allowance accordingly.
- Parents with an annual income exceeding €500,000 (€250,000 if single parent) in the year prior to a child’s birth do not qualify for parental allowance.
- Parents who are privately insured are required to continue paying health insurance contributions in full, including the employer portion, while on parental leave.
- Employees may also elect to work part time during parental leave. They have the right to work part time up to a maximum of 30 hours per week with their employer. After parental leave, the regular contractual rights and obligations apply again.
- Employees also have the right to receive half the parental allowance for two parents as long as both parents work part time for at least 4 months while on parental leave. Each will be entitled to receive the allowance for a further 4 months.
- During parental leave, employees continue to accrue vacation however, this may be reduced by 1/12th for every full calendar month the employee is on parental leave
- Any leave the employee could not take prior to going on parental leave does not forfeit and may be taken upon their return