Parental leave in Germany: How does it work?


Share post:

Parental leave in Germany: How do you reconcile family and your job? Below is an easy guide for you.

Parental leave in Germany: Are fathers and mothers entitled to parental leave equally in Germany? Can you work part-time? Where, when, and how do you have to apply for it? We have the answers to your questions!

Parental leave

Parental leave in Germany and the need to balance family and work

For a lot of families in Germany, balancing family life and work has been essential. Parental leave, which working parents are entitled to, helps to look after their child at home in the first few years.

Every employee in Germany has the right to a maternity leave of up to three years. Provided that he or she lives in the same household as the child to be cared for and does not work more than 32 hours per week on average per month during parental leave. This time is primarily reserved for the parents.

What is parental leave called in German?

Parental leaveElternzeit

Adoptive parents, full-time foster parents, stepparents, and registered life partners may also apply.

▶︎ Requirements for this: The step-parent or life partner is married or in a civil partnership with a biological parent and lives under the same roof with the child to be cared for. In special cases such as minors, illness, imprisonment, or the death of the parents, grandparents and third-degree relatives can claim parental leave for a child.

Tips for parental leave in Germany

1. Send the application for parental leave as registered mail. This way you have proof and can prove that you applied on time.

2. The special protection against dismissal before and during parental leave only applies eight weeks before it begins. If you apply for parental leave too early, your employer can give you notice of termination. Submit your application seven weeks before the start date to avoid nasty surprises.

3. Even if you can’t imagine staying at home for three years, think about the two partner months. Your entitlement to parental allowance is extended by two months if both parents take parental leave.

Applying for parental leave in Germany – what are you legally entitled to?

Is there a rule regarding the length?

Federal parental leave laws: By law, each parent is entitled to three years of parental leave. However, you do not have to use these three years in a row and not in full. 

For births since July 1, 2015, following a reform of the Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act (BEEG): You may put 24 months of this in the period between the third and eighth year of your child. You can also divide parental leave into three periods for each parent.

If your child was born before July 1, 2015, you can only take parental leave in two parts. You can set aside up to 12 months between the ages of three and eight for your child, provided your employer agrees.

Parental leave

How, where and when do I apply for paid parental leave?

Apply for parental leave in writing to your employer seven weeks before the start. You only have to register times after your child’s third birthday 13 weeks in advance. For mothers, parental leave usually follows seamlessly from maternity leave. In other words: the first day after maternity leave is the first day of the baby break.

Can my employer refuse my parental leave?

No. Taking parental leave up to the child’s third birthday is not dependent on the employer’s consent. The legal basis is the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act (BEEG).

Maternity leave begins six weeks before the expected date of birth and ends eight weeks after the birth. In the case of multiple births and premature babies, maternity leave is extended to twelve weeks after the birth.

Can both parents take parental leave at the same time?

Yes. In principle, mothers and fathers are entitled to parental leave to the same extent. This means that you can use this time both at the same time or one after the other. How long and when is it to be registered individually and independently with the respective employer.

▶︎ Parental leave for fathers in Germany: Can a father take parental leave if the child’s mother is still on maternity leave and is receiving corresponding benefits from health insurance or the employer?

Yes. Parental leave may also be taken at the same time or overlapping with the other parent. The mother’s parental leave includes the periods of maternity leave after childbirth. The maternity protection period has no effect on the father’s parental leave.

Parental allowance figures: women take an average of 14.5 months, men 3.7 months

Every fourth parental benefit recipient (25 percent) in Germany is male. Men planned to receive a parental allowance for an average of 3.7 months, women for 14.5 months. 

Is the determination of parental leave binding?

If you are registering for parental leave for the first time, the law requires you to make a binding commitment as to the periods within the two years for which parental leave should be taken.

▶︎ This means: If you only apply for parental leave until your child’s first birthday, you automatically waive parental leave for the second year of life. You can then take the remaining 24 months after your child’s third birthday. However, if you take the third period of your parental leave between your child’s third and eighth birthday, your employer can refuse this if he asserts urgent operational reasons.

By the way: Taking parental leave for the third year of a child’s life following parental leave during the first two years of life does not depend on the employer’s consent. Because the limitation of the commitment period to two years suggests that employees can arrange freely again after the commitment period and only have to adhere to the notification deadlines, the Berlin/Brandenburg Regional Labor Court (Az.: 21 Sa 390/18) judged.


Parental Allowance 2022: Flexible part-time work, more months for premature babies, less bureaucracy

Parental Allowance 2022: More part-time opportunities

The working hours permitted during parental allowance and parental leave will be increased from 30 to 32 hours per week – i.e. to a full four working days. The partnership bonus, which supports both parents working part-time at the same time, can in future be drawn for 24-32 hours per week (instead of the previous 25-30 hours per week) and will also be simplified and made more flexible in many other areas. This increases flexibility for parents and supports them in securing the family income together and, on the other hand, better dividing time for the family through part-time work.

Parental allowance 2022: Longer parental allowance for premature babies

If the child is born six weeks before the expected date of birth or earlier, parents receive additional months of parental allowance to have more time for the child in this challenging situation. Here are several examples of families in this situation.

  • if the child is born at least 6 weeks before the expected date: 1 additional month of basic parental allowance
  • if the child is born at least 8 weeks before the expected date: 2 additional months of basic parental allowance
  • if the child is born at least 12 weeks before the expected date: 3 additional months of basic parental allowance
  • if the child is born at least 16 weeks before the expected date: 4 additional months of basic parental allowance

Parental leave vs maternity leave: What is the difference between parental leave and maternity leave?

Maternity leave and parental leave are often lumped together linguistically, although there are differences that you should be aware of. 

▶︎ Maternity leave ensures the health and social protection of mother and child shortly before and after the birth

▶︎ Parental leave enables both parents to take a break from their job in which they can take care of the family growth.

Accordingly, parental leave must be announced to the employer in good time and approved by them. Maternity leave, on the other hand, does not have to be approved. 

▶︎ For mothers, parental leave usually begins after maternity leave. Fathers can take parental leave immediately after the birth, but a later point in time is also possible.

By the way: Your employer is not allowed to terminate your employment during your parental leave.

Paternity leave: what is it?

Paternity leave is unpaid leave taken by a male worker to give birth to a child. Similar to “maternity leave” and parental leave. Although the term “paternity leave” is colloquially spoken of, the term does not exist in the legal sense. There, the time off is called parental leave for short.

The right to leave is regulated in § 15 of the Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act (BEEG). It applies to the mother as well as to the father or both parents at the same time and can be claimed for up to three years.

Who is entitled to paternity leave?

All fathers who are employed, live with the child in the same household and (mostly) look after and bring up the child themselves are entitled to paternity leave. The right is independent of the employment relationship. It applies to…

  • part-time contracts
  • Temporary Contracts
  • Minor employment
  • training
  • retraining
  • Employment for professional training
  • employment in home work

If the claim is made during a fixed-term contract, it is not automatically renewed. However, there may be exceptions to this, for example during an apprenticeship .

What employees should know: rejection, termination and renewal

Can my employer refuse my application for parental leave?

If you apply on time and make the right decision for the first two years: no. If you miss the seven-week deadline, the baby break will be postponed by the time that has elapsed. According to the reformed BEEG, you have the option of spreading parental leave over three periods. You can reserve two years of maternity leave for the period between the child’s third and eighth year of life. Employer approval is not required.

However, your boss can refuse the third phase of parental leave for urgent operational reasons if it is between the child’s third birthday and the child’s eighth birthday.

For births up to June 30, 2015, however, the following still applies: You may only take 12 months of parental leave after your third birthday. In the case of such a dichotomy, your boss is not obliged to accept it. He can refuse the “late” year.

Parental leave

Am I entitled to insurance cover during the baby break?

You and your child are entitled to non-contributory insurance cover with a statutory health insurance company as long as you are on parental leave and – apart from a parental allowance – do not earn any income that is subject to contributions. However, if you were privately insured before parental leave, you must also take care of insurance to cover yourself during the baby break.

Can my employer fire me during my parental leave?

Will my fixed-term contract be extended by parental leave?

No. If a fixed-term employment contract expires during maternity leave, the employer is not obliged to extend it. If you know that your contract is expiring and your employer is guaranteed not to extend it, apply for a job break until the end of the fixed-term employment relationship. You do not have to worry that you are not entitled to parental allowance due to the shortened parental leave. Parental leave and parental allowance are independent of each other.

Parental leave

Is parental leave extended with another child?

If you have another child, you are entitled to up to three years of “new” parental leave. However, the “old” parental leave does not end automatically with the birth of the new baby but continues as registered with the employer. You can then take parental leave for the second child after the first parental leave.

Tip: If you want to take maternity leave for the second child, you can end the first parental leave early. In this case, inform your employer in good time about the early termination at the beginning of the maternity protection period for the new child. The employer may not refuse early termination.

Will I get my old job back after the baby break?

Your employer is obligated to provide you with an equivalent job when you return. 

▶︎ That means first and foremost: You are entitled to a job with your old salary. If you had agreed to work part-time during your parental leave, the part-time contract also ends when you take maternity leave.

Your holiday entitlement during parental leave

Your holiday entitlements continue to grow

The employment relationship does not end during parental leave – it is merely suspended. This means that an employee continues to have full holiday entitlement even during parental leave if the employer does not make use of the reduction option.

Your remaining vacation time remains

The transfer of unused vacation time to the next year, which is only possible for a limited period, does not apply during parental leave! Leave not taken by the start of parental leave, therefore, remains in place. It doesn’t expire even after years.

Holidays continue to accumulate even if a sibling is born during parental leave and parental leave is taken again. Holiday entitlement can only expire in the year following the end of parental leave.

Employers can reduce your holiday entitlement during parental leave

This is made possible by Section 17 of the Federal Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act – BEEG for short. For each full calendar month of parental leave, the employer may reduce the leave by one-twelfth. For example, with 30 days of vacation per year and three months of parental leave, this results in 7.5 days of vacation.

When calculating, it is important to note that the reduction is only possible for full months. If parental leave begins or ends in the course of a month, there is no possibility of reduction. For parental leave from mid-May to mid-July, the employer is only permitted to make a reduction for June. If you divide 30 vacation days by 12, this results in a reduction of only 2.5 vacation days.

Employers are only allowed to make cuts if employees stay at home. Anyone who continues to work part-time during parental leave does not have to fear a reduction. Instead, part-time workers continue to accrue vacation time by the agreed part-time work schedule. So if you reduce your work to a third, you will receive a third of the previous holiday entitlement for full-time employment. In any case, it is decisive for the reduction that the employer has also declared the reduction. It is not automatic.

Parental leave

No more cut after termination after your parental leave

There is no fixed point in time when the employer has to declare the reduction. It can also take place after parental leave has ended. According to a decision by the Federal Labor Court in 2015, however, the prerequisite is that the employment relationship and the associated holiday entitlement still exist. Employees who are no longer employed do not have to accept a reduction (Az.: 9 AZR 725/13). This is important because the employer has to pay cash for any leave not taken by the end of the period. Depending on your earnings and the rest of your vacation time, that can be quite a lot of money.

Can I work despite having a baby?

In order to stay on the ball at work, parents often take the opportunity to work part-time after the birth. If your previous employer employs more than 15 people, you are legally entitled to a part-time job. Between 15 and 30 hours per week are allowed. The employer may only refuse to agree to a reduction in working hours for urgent operational reasons.

▶︎ Note: If you are employed in a smaller company, you must agree with your boss on a part-time position during parental leave. In this case you have no claim. You also need your employer’s consent if you want to work part-time for another employer or be self-employed during your parental leave.

Did you know ….

▶︎ Finnish fathers have the most “holidays” after childbirth. The rule is most generous in Finland, where fathers are entitled to 54 days at 70 percent of their previous wages. Paternity leave is defined here as a benefit reserved for the father and usually to be taken immediately after the birth of the child. Because the systems in the individual countries are very different, separating paternity leave and parental leave is not always easy.

▶︎ Lithuania and Spain rank second for paternity leave, where fathers can take a month off after the birth on full pay, and Slovenia with 30 days – two weeks of which on full pay, the rest is a flat rate. Paternity leave is the shortest in Malta, where fathers are entitled to one day in the private sector and five days in the public sector on full pay. In Luxembourg and Greece, it is only two days, in Hungary five and Italy seven days with full continued payment of wages.

▶︎ The longest maternity leave is in Bulgaria, where mothers are paid 90 percent of salarytheir for 58.5 weeks. In second place is Great Britain with 52 weeks, with 90 percent of the salary only being paid in the first six weeks and only around 160 euros per week in the remaining 33 weeks. The regulation is also generous in Slovakia (34 weeks at 75 percent salary), in the Czech Republic (28 weeks at 70 percent), Ireland (26 weeks at 235 euros per week), Hungary (24 weeks at 70 percent), Italy (22 weeks at 80 percent) and in Estonia and Poland (20 weeks each at 100 percent).

Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related articles

Why visit Marienplatz, Munich?

Marienplatz Munich is the urban heart of the Munich. Tourists and locals meet in the square. There are beautiful street...

How much deposit for bottles can you get in Germany?

Deposit for bottles is a culture in Germany. Eventually every Expat becomes accustomed to collecting bottles. Deposit for bottles:...

10 beautiful winter hikes in a snowy German landscape

As an Expat in Germany, going on hikes will expose you to fantastic landcape that a lot of...

What is Expat health insurance? Who needs it? When do they need it?

Do you know what Expat health insurance is? Who needs it? When is it good to get it?...