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Maternity Leave in Germany: A Complete Guide for Expats [Mutterschutz]

Updated: 1 day ago

Are you an expat working in Germany or with a German contract and expecting a baby? You might be curious about your entitlements and obligations regarding maternity leave. In Germany, maternity leave or Mutterschutz is a legal protection that safeguards the health and welfare of pregnant and nursing women and their babies.

maternity leave for expats in Germany

If you are pregnant and working in Germany, or have a German contract abroad, you may be wondering about your rights and benefits regarding maternity leave. Maternity leave, also known as Mutterschutz, is a legal protection for pregnant and nursing women in Germany that aims to ensure their health and well-being during and after pregnancy. In this article, we will explain the main aspects of maternity leave in Germany, such as:

  • How long is maternity leave in Germany and who is eligible for it?

  • How much money will you receive during maternity leave in Germany and who will pay for it?

  • How and when should you inform your employer of your pregnancy in Germany?

  • Can you extend or split your maternity leave in Germany?

  • How does maternity leave in Germany compare with other countries?

How long is maternity leave in Germany and who is eligible for it?

Maternity leave in Germany consists of two periods: the protection period before childbirth (Schutzfrist vor der Entbindung) and the protection period after childbirth (Schutzfrist nach der Entbindung). The protection period before childbirth starts six weeks before the expected date of delivery and ends on the day of delivery. The protection period after childbirth starts on the day of delivery and lasts eight weeks, or 12 weeks in case of premature or multiple births. During these periods, you are not allowed to work unless you explicitly consent to do so. However, you can revoke your consent at any time.


Maternity leave in Germany applies to all women who work in Germany or have a German contract abroad, regardless of their nationality, employment status, or income level. This includes employees, civil servants, freelancers, self-employed, trainees, students, and interns. However, there are some exceptions for certain groups of women, such as those who work in agriculture, family businesses, or domestic services. You can check with your employer or the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) if you are unsure whether you are eligible for maternity leave in Germany.



How much money will you receive during maternity leave in Germany and who will pay for it?

During maternity leave in Germany, you are entitled to receive maternity benefit (Mutterschaftsgeld), which is a financial compensation for your loss of income due to pregnancy and childbirth. The amount of maternity benefit depends on your average net income in the three months before the start of the protection period before childbirth. The maximum amount of maternity benefit is 13 euros per calendar day.


The maternity benefit is paid by two sources: your health insurance provider (Krankenkasse) and your employer (Arbeitgeber). Your health insurance provider pays the basic amount of maternity benefit, which is equal to your average net income per calendar day. Your employer pays the difference between the basic amount and the maximum amount of 13 euros per calendar day. This means that if your average net income per calendar day is less than 13 euros, you will only receive the basic amount from your health insurance provider. If your average net income per calendar day is more than 13 euros, you will receive the basic amount from your health insurance provider and the difference from your employer.


The maternity benefit is paid for the entire duration of the protection periods before and after childbirth, which is usually 14 weeks in total. However, if you give birth earlier than expected, the unused days from the protection period before childbirth are added to the protection period after childbirth. For example, if you give birth four weeks before the expected date of delivery, you will receive maternity benefit for 18 weeks instead of 14 weeks.


In short :

  • The amount of maternity benefit in Germany depends on your average net income in the three months before the start of the protection period before childbirth.

  • The maximum amount of maternity benefit is 13 euros per calendar day.

  • The maternity benefit is paid by two sources: your health insurance provider (Krankenkasse) and your employer (Arbeitgeber).

  • Your health insurance provider pays the basic amount of maternity benefit, which is equal to your average net income per calendar day.

  • Your employer pays the difference between the basic amount and the maximum amount of 13 euros per calendar day.

  • The maternity benefit is paid for the entire duration of the protection periods before and after childbirth, which is usually 14 weeks in total.

  • However, if you give birth earlier than expected, the unused days from the protection period before childbirth are added to the protection period after childbirth.


How and when should you inform your employer of your pregnancy in Germany?

As soon as you find out that you are pregnant, you should inform your employer of your pregnancy and the expected date of delivery in writing. You should also provide a medical certificate (Bescheinigung über den mutmaßlichen Tag der Entbindung) from your doctor or midwife that confirms your pregnancy and the expected date of delivery. This will allow your employer to plan ahead and apply for reimbursement from the Federal Insurance Office (Bundesversicherungsamt) for the maternity benefit they have to pay you.


By informing your employer of your pregnancy, you will also benefit from job protection (Kündigungsschutz), which means that your employer cannot terminate your employment contract from the beginning of your pregnancy until four months after childbirth. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as if your employer goes bankrupt or if you commit a serious breach of contract. You can consult with a lawyer or a trade union if you face any problems with your employer regarding your pregnancy or maternity leave.


Remember :

  • Inform your employer as soon as you discover your pregnancy in writing.

  • Provide a medical certificate from your doctor or midwife confirming your pregnancy and expected delivery date.

  • Employers use this information to plan and apply for reimbursement from the Federal Insurance Office for maternity benefits.

  • Informing your employer grants you job protection (Kündigungsschutz) from the start of pregnancy until four months after childbirth.

  • You can seek legal or trade union advice if you encounter issues with your employer during pregnancy or maternity leave.


Can you extend or split your maternity leave in Germany?

After the end of the protection period after childbirth, which is usually eight weeks or 12 weeks in case of premature or multiple births, you can choose to extend or split your maternity leave in Germany. This is possible through parental leave (Elternzeit) and parental allowance (Elterngeld), which are separate from maternity leave and maternity benefit.


Parental leave is a period of unpaid leave that allows you to take care of your child until they turn three years old. You can take parental leave for up to three years per child, either alone or together with your partner. You can also split your parental leave into up to three blocks, as long as you inform your employer at least seven weeks in advance. During parental leave, you have job protection and can work part-time for up to 30 hours per week.


Parental allowance is a financial support that replaces part of your income during parental leave. The amount of parental allowance depends on your previous income and the number of hours you work during parental leave. The basic parental allowance (Basiselterngeld) is paid for up to 12 months per parent, or 14 months if both parents share the parental leave. The basic parental allowance ranges from 300 euros to 1800 euros per month, depending on your previous income. The plus parental allowance (ElterngeldPlus) is paid for up to 24 months per parent, or 28 months if both parents share the parental leave. The plus parental allowance is half of the basic parental allowance, but it can be combined with part-time work. There are also additional benefits for parents of twins, multiple births, or children with disabilities.


In short :

Parental leave in Germany
  • After the protection period after childbirth, you can take up to 3 years of unpaid parental leave per child.

  • You can take parental leave alone or together with your partner.

  • You can split your parental leave into up to 3 blocks.

  • During parental leave, you have job protection and can work part-time for up to 30 hours per week.

Parental allowance in Germany
  • Parental allowance is a financial support that replaces part of your income during parental leave.

  • The amount of parental allowance depends on your previous income and the number of hours you work during parental leave.

  • The basic parental allowance (Basiselterngeld) is paid for up to 12 months per parent, or 14 months if both parents share the parental leave.

  • The basic parental allowance ranges from 300 euros to 1800 euros per month, depending on your previous income.

  • The plus parental allowance (ElterngeldPlus) is paid for up to 24 months per parent, or 28 months if both parents share the parental leave.

  • The plus parental allowance is half of the basic parental allowance, but it can be combined with part-time work.

  • There are also additional benefits for parents of twins, multiple births, or children with disabilities.


How does maternity leave in Germany compare with other countries?

Maternity leave in Germany is one of the most generous and flexible in the world. Compared with other countries, Germany offers a longer period of paid maternity leave, a higher amount of maternity benefit, and more options for extending or splitting the maternity leave. For example, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the average duration of paid maternity leave in the world is 12 weeks, while in Germany it is 14 weeks or more. The average amount of maternity benefit in the world is 53% of the previous earnings, while in Germany it is 100%. The average duration of parental leave in the world is 18 weeks, while in Germany it is up to three years.


However, maternity leave in Germany also has some challenges and drawbacks. For instance, some women may face discrimination or difficulties in returning to work after maternity leave, especially if they work in male-dominated or competitive sectors. Some women may also experience a loss of career opportunities or income due to taking a long period of maternity or parental leave.


Moreover, some women may not be able to afford taking maternity or parental leave if they have a low income or no health insurance.



A Real-World Example of Maternity and Parental Leave in Germany

We hope you'll be able to better understand and relate the below story with your current situation.


Imagine, Anna is a software engineer who works for a German company in Berlin. She is pregnant with her first child and wants to take maternity leave. She informs her employer of her pregnancy and the expected date of delivery, which is June 15, 2023. She also provides a doctor’s certificate to confirm this information.


Anna decides to work until May 1, 2023, which is six weeks before her due date. She is legally allowed to do so, as long as she does not have any health problems or complications. She also has the right to work part-time or reduce her working hours during this period, if she wishes.


On May 1, 2023, Anna starts her maternity leave. She will receive 14 weeks of paid leave, which is divided into six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth. This means that her maternity leave will end on August 10, 2023. During this time, she will receive a maternity allowance ( Mutterschaftsgeld ) from her health insurance and a top-up payment ( Arbeitgeberzuschuss ) from her employer. The amount of these payments depends on her previous income and the type of health insurance she has.


Anna gives birth to a healthy baby boy on June 18, 2023. She is happy and excited to be a mother. She enjoys spending time with her newborn son and bonding with him. She also takes care of her own health and recovery.


After eight weeks of mandatory leave following childbirth, Anna can choose to return to work or extend her leave by applying for parental leave ( Elternzeit ). Parental leave is an unpaid leave that allows parents to take care of their children until they are three years old. Anna decides to take parental leave for one year, until June 18, 2024. She informs her employer of her decision at least seven weeks before the end of her maternity leave.


Anna’s employer agrees to grant her parental leave and guarantees that she will have the same or a similar job when she returns. Anna’s employer also cannot fire her during this time, unless there are very exceptional circumstances. Anna can also work part-time during her parental leave, up to 30 hours per week, if she wants to.


Conclusion

If you are pregnant and working in Germany, or have a German contract abroad, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of maternity leave in Germany and plan ahead accordingly. You should also seek advice from your employer, your health insurance provider, your doctor or midwife, and other relevant authorities or organizations if you have any questions or concerns about maternity leave in Germany.



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