How does the German state support families?
Childcare is a prominent concern for any parent with young children. And it is not always easy to reconcile work and family. In Germany, the estate provides so-called "Elterngeld" to support young families. "Elterngeld" or parental allowance serves as financial compensation for parents who temporarily have a lower capacity for work or cannot work at all as they care for their children. Parents who did not work before childbirth can also apply for a parental allowance. Read further to find out if and how you can receive a parental allowance.
What do I need to know?
You can receive a parental allowance, if:
- You live with your child in Germany,
- you have the custody of your child,
- you do not work or work less than 30 hours per week, and
- you have a residence permit including a work permit, a “Beschäftigungsduldung”, German citizenship or the citizenship of an EU country (including Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland).
Please note: If your residence permit has been issued according to §23 paragraph 1 (with the addition "wegen eines Krieges im Heimatland"), §23a, §24 or §25 paragraph 3 to 5 of the Residence Act, you must also meet ONE of the following requirements to benefit from parental benefits:
- You must be employed, on parental leave or collect unemployment benefits I or
- you must have been in Germany for at least 15 months.
Work is not a requirement for entitlement to parental allowance. Employees, self-employed individuals, civil servants, unemployed persons, students, those under vocational training, and stay-in-home mothers and fathers can apply for a parental allowance. But people with higher incomes are not entitled to a parental allowance. That means if you, as a parent, earn more than €250,000 (or both parents, more than €500,000) per year, you are not entitled to a parental allowance.
The parental allowance pertains to your biological children and the biological children of your partner, and foster- and adopted children. In exceptional cases, you can also receive a parental allowance for your grandchildren or nieces and nephews. But such is only possible if the child's parents are not capable of taking care of the child.
Important: If you come from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro or Kosovo and work in Germany, you can receive parental allowance even if you have a tolerated stay ("Duldung") or temporary stay permit (“Aufenthaltsgestattung”). The same applies to you if you come from Turkey and have been in Germany for at least six months.
Yes. You can receive a parental allowance, although your child spends the days in a kindergarten or with a childminder. (i.e. a "Tagesmutter" or "Tagesvater") You can read more about childcare in our chapter "Childcare".
No. Parental allowance does not depend on parental leave. However, to be eligible for the parental allowance, you may not work more than 30 hours per week.
There are two types of parental allowance: the basic parental allowance ("Basiselterngeld ") and the so-called "ElterngeldPlus".
With the basic parental allowance, the parents altogether can receive a parental allowance for 12 months per child. If you share the rights to basic parental allowance with your partner, you each can win two more months of entitlement. You are free to do so- the only rule is that each parent can claim benefits for at least 2 and a maximum of 12 months. If you are a single parent, however, you are entitled to receive 14 months of basic parental allowance.
In the case of "ElterngeldPlus", together and per child, parents can receive a parental allowance for a double amount of time, i.e. 24 months. But the amount they receive per month is half the basic parental allowance. You can receive "EltergeldPlus" for four additional months if you also work between 25 and 30 hours per week during this time. Single parents also receive these four additional months of parental allowance.
Please note: You can combine the two types of parental allowance. For instance, you can initially receive six months of basic parental allowance("Basiselterngeld"); and then 12 months of "ElterngeldPlus".
The amount of parental allowance you receive depends on your living condition and the type of parental allowance you have chosen. According to the law, the amount of parental allowance is based on the amount of monthly net income of each applicant during the last 12 months. Your parental allowance amounts to 65% to 100% of the income you used to have before the childbirth. The higher your prior salary, the lower your parental allowance, i.e. you receive 100% of your previous net income if you are considered to be low-income. Parents who earn more will receive 65% of their previous net income as parental allowance.
Note for parents currently receiving short-time work benefits or unemployment benefits I due to the Coronavirus pandemic: The current months are not taken into account when calculating your parental allowance, so your parental allowance is not reduced because of the short-time work benefit or unemployment benefits I.
Furthermore, there are minimum and maximum limits for the parental allowance. Depending on your previous income, your basic parental allowance ("Basiselterngeld") will be at least €300 and no more than €1800 per month. With the "ElterngeldPlus", you will receive between €150 to €900 per month. In case you did not have any income before the childbirth, you will be entitled to the minimum parental allowance, i.e. €150 or rather €300 per month. Important: If you work while receiving a parental allowance, the amount of your parental allowance will be cut according to your wages.
Families with several small children are also eligible for a so-called "sibling bonus" ("Geschwisterbonus") which mounts to 10% of the designated parental allowance. To apply for the sibling bonus, you must have at least one other child under the age of three or two more children under the age of six. In the case of multiple births (i.e. twins, triplets, etc.), you also receive a lump-sum of €300 for each additional child.
With the help of a parental allowance calculator, you can estimate which option (basic parental allowance, "Elterngeldplus" or a combination of both) is best for you. On familienportal.de, you will find a so-called "quick calculator" as well as a parental allowance calculator which offers you a detailed estimation based on your situation.
Please note: If you (as a married couple) know early on that you want to apply for parental allowance, you should change your tax bracket ("Steuerklasse ") to increase your net income. The primary parent who will receive parental allowance should switch to tax bracket III. As a father-to-be, you need to do so at least seven months before the childbirth- as a mother-to-be, you are advised to do so before your maternity protection starts. Find out more about taxes in our chapter "Tax return".
You need to apply for parental allowance at the parental benefit centre ("Elterngeldstelle") of your federal state. You can find the branch office responsible for you on elterngeld.net. There is an application form which you must complete. In Bavaria and Saxony, you must apply online; but in other federal states, you need to send the application per post. You will find the application form as well as the parental benefit centre responsible for you on familienportal.de.
On the application form, you must indicate which parent wishes to receive the parental allowance for which period. You will have the chance to change the allocation and periods once -and in exceptional cases, twice - later. In case you are married or share custody, both parents must sign the application.
Please note: You can apply for parental allowance until the child is 14 months old. It is best to apply not according to calendar months, but based on the child's age. If you count calendar months, you will ultimately receive less money.
Make sure you apply on time. Payment of the parental allowance can take place retroactively, but only for three months. So, if you file your application too late, you may lose money.
For the application, you need the following documents:
- The birth certificate of your child
- Your salary statements of the last 12 months or a notification from the Jobcenter or alike
- A confirmation letter from your health insurance regarding maternity protection benefit ("Mutterschutzgeld")
- A confirmation from your employer about your parental leave (if applicable)
- A confirmation letter from your employer regarding the maternity allowance grant ("Zuschuss zum Mutterschutzgeld ") for mothers who have been working before childbirth
Please note: If your living conditions change, you must inform the parental benefit centre ("Elterngeldstelle"). If you, for instance, have an additional income, you are obliged to notify them as your income affects the amount of parental allowance to which you are entitled.
Parental allowance is considered as an "income". That means your unemployment benefit II (ALG 2) or social benefits will be reduced according to the amount of your parental allowance. Altogether, you will not receive more money than what you used to before the parental allowance. However, if you were gainfully employed before childbirth, you can claim a so-called "Elterngeldfreibetrag". The amount of such payment depends on the amount of your previous income. You can find out more on arbeitslosenselbsthilfe.org.
If you benefit from compulsory insurance as a member of a statutory health insurance scheme, you can continue with the same coverage. The only difference is that you do not need to make any contributions while receiving a parental allowance unless you are working part-time. In case you are voluntarily insured under statutory health insurance, you can remain covered but, usually, have to make contributions. The only exception is when you meet the requirements for family insurance.; If that is the case, you do not have to pay any dues.
If you were privately insured before receiving a parental allowance, you remain insured there and should continue with your contributions.
The parental allowance centre ("Eltergeldstelle") of your federal state can provide you with assistance regarding parental leave. You can find the parental benefit centre responsible for you on Website elterngeld.net. You can also contact an Adult Migration Service or a Youth Migration Service in your area. The staff there speak many languages and specialise in migration and refugee issues. You can find one of their branch offices in your area on bamf.de. If you are 27 or younger, search for a Youth Migration service nearby at jugendmigrationsdienste.de.
Apart from "Elterngeld", only in Bavaria and Saxony, there are other financial support options: the so-called family allowance ("Familiengeld") or state childcare allowance ("Landeserziehungsgeld"). The conditions and regulations for the receipt of these financial aids vary in the two federal states. You can find out all you need to know about the Bavarian family allowance on zbfs.bayern.de. Information about the Saxon state childcare allowance is available on familie.sachsen.de.