How can I spend more time with my baby despite work?
Parental leave ("Elternzeit") is a leave from work for which the parents of babies and young children can apply. If you want to spend more time with your child, you can "go on parental leave". During this time, you do not work or do so only for limited hours. Mothers are not the only ones who use such an opportunity in Germany. More and more fathers apply for parental leave so that they can spend more time with their child in the first years of his/her life. After parental leave, you can return to your previous job.
To learn about the financial options you and your family have during parental leave, check our chapter "Parental Allowance".
What do I need to know?
You can go on parental leave when
- you are an employee or going through vocational training,
- you live with your child and
- are personally responsible for looking after your child.
You are an employee when employed by a company, organisation or government agency. The parental leave regulations also apply to people who work part-time, have a mini-job and those who are currently undergoing vocational training or further education. However, the self-employed, unemployed, housewives and house-husbands, pupils in school and university students cannot go on parental leave. Please note: There are special regulations for civil servants, judges and soldiers. For more information, seek advice from your human resources department or welfare service.
Parental leave regulations apply to both your biological child and the biological child of your partner, as well as your foster children and adopted children. In exceptional cases, you can also take parental leave for your grandchild or nieces and nephews. But doing so is only possible if the child's parents cannot take care of him/her themselves.
Important: Of course, you can still have your child cared for by a daycare centre or a baby minder during parental leave. To learn more about childcare, visit our chapter "Kita".
You will not receive any salary from your employer during parental leave if you don’t work, but you can apply for the so-called parental allowance ("Elterngeld"). Parental allowance is, in fact, state-funded financial support for parents with small children. Read more in our chapter "Parental Allowance". If you work part-time during your parental leave, you will receive a salary from your employer and can also apply for parental allowance.
Each parent can take up to three years of parental leave per child. In the case of the mother, however, this three-year-long parental leave includes the legally prescribed, six-weeks-long after-birth maternity leave during which the mother has to stay home.
Fathers can start parental leave (the earliest) at childbirth and mothers should start theirs after the end of their (six-weeks-long) maternity leave. Both parents have to take at least a part of their parental leave before the child's 3rd birthday. A maximum of 24 months may be claimed between the 3rd and 8th birthday, and both parents must conclude it before the child's 8th birthday. Apart from that, as a parent, you can freely choose the beginning and the end of your parental leave. You and your partner do not have to both go on parental leave –only one parent may go on parental leave if you prefer so.
You can take your entire parental leave in one go, or spread it over 2 or 3 separate periods. If your employer agrees, you can also divide your parental leave into more than 3 periods. If the 3rd period is not due to start until your child's 3rd birthday or later, employers can refuse the 3rd period for important operational reasons.
Good to know: If you are on maternity leave after childbirth, you should only start your parental leave after your maternity leave is over. Otherwise, you may not receive an employer's maternity allowance.
You must register your planned parental leave in writing with your employer. Registration by phone or e-mail is not authorised. There is no specific form for this purpose, but on elternzeit.de, you will find a sample letter that you can customise for yourself. In the letter, you must mention the beginning and end of your parental leave. Keep in mind to ask for a written confirmation of the receipt of your application to avoid misunderstandings and problems later on.
Please note: Before your child's 3rd birthday, when registering for parental leave, you must declare how you would like to divide your parental leave over the next two years. The period in question is known as "Bindungszeitraum" or binding period. After you've informed your employer about your plan, a change is only possible if your employer agrees.
If your child was born after 1 July 2015, the following rules apply to you:
- If you are going into parental leave before your child's 3rd birthday, you must inform your employer at least seven weeks in advance.
- If you wish to go into parental leave between the 3rd and 8th birthday of your child, you must notify your boss at least 13 weeks in advance.
If your child was born before 1 July 2015, you must notify your employer at least seven weeks in advance, regardless of the date of your planned parental leave.
In exceptional cases, for example, if your child is born too soon, the deadlines can also be curtailed. If this is the case, talk directly to your employer.
As long as you are on parental leave, you are protected against dismissal. Your legal protection against dismissal starts eight weeks before parental leave, provided you have already registered for your leave. So if you want to ensure you are safe, register your parental leave at the earliest one week before the registration deadline, when the special protection against dismissal already applies.
From this point until the end of your parental leave, according to the law, you must not be fired. If you divide your parental leave into several periods, you cannot be dismissed during any of these periods.
There are few exceptional cases in which such protection against dismissal may not apply, e.g. insolvency of the company or the employee's violation of the employment contract. In such cases, however, the Occupational Health and Safety Inspectorate ("Aufsichtbehörde") must agree to your dismissal. In other words, termination of your work arrangement is not valid without the approval of the regulatory authority. Even if the regulatory authority approves your removal, you can still file a case against the decision. You have to submit your claim (the latest) three weeks after receiving the termination notification. You can find a lawyer online, for instance, on anwaltauskunft.de.
Yes, you can. However, you must observe the notification deadline ("Kündigungsfrist") specified in your employment contract.
In principle, you must be able to return to your old job after parental leave. If this is not possible, your employer must offer you an equivalent position. That means, for instance, you must not earn less than before.
If you do not work during parental leave, your annual leave will be reduced by 1/12 for each full month of parental leave. So, if you take one year off in the framework of parental leave, you lose your entire annual leave. However, remainder holidays, which you may have accumulated before the parental leave, is not affected, so you can still take those days off after your parental leave.
If you continue to work part-time during parental leave, however, your annual leave will not be reduced. When that is the case, any remaining leave that you do not take during your parental leave will be forfeited.
You can work part-time during parental leave for up to 32 hours per week. The monthly average of working hours is important here, not the hours in individual weeks.
Please note: If your child was born before 1 September 2021, you may not work more than 30 hours per week during parental leave.
If you were already working part-time before parental leave, you can also work 32 hours or less during parental leave. Inform your employer in due time so they do not look for a replacement for you.
During parental leave, you can change your working hours twice, for example, if you want to work 20 hours first and 32 hours later.
Protection against dismissal also applies to part-time work, and you may continue to work in your job after parental leave as before.
You must apply for part-time work to your employer in writing. The deadlines are the same as for applying for parental leave.
You can discuss with your employer how many hours you want to work part-time, as long as it is no more than 32 hours per week.
The application must include the following:
- when the part-time work should start, and
- how many hours you would like to work (e.g. 32 hours per week).
You should also specify in the application which days or times you want to work, e.g., "mornings" or "Monday to Thursday".
If your employer does not agree to your part-time work, they have 4 or 8 weeks to justify their refusal in writing.
To reject the application concerning childbirths from 1 July 2015, your employer must justify the rejection:
- in 4 weeks if you applied for part-time work before your child's 3rd birthday and
- in 8 weeks if you have applied for part-time work in the period after your child's 3rd birthday.
To reject the application concerning childbirths before 1 July 2015, your employer must justify the rejection:
- in 4 weeks - regardless of whether you want to work part-time before your child's 3rd birthday or after.
Under certain conditions, you are entitled to be allowed to work part-time during parental leave. These include the following:
- You have been working for this employer for over 6 months without interruption.
- There are usually more than 15 employees working there. Trainees and other persons in vocational training programmes are not counted.
- You would like to work for at least 2 months, for a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 32 hours per week.
- There are no urgent operational reasons that speak against part-time work. There would be urgent operational reasons, for example, if the workplace is unsuitable for part-time work.
That depends on when your child was born:
- For childbirths from 1 July 2015:
If your employer fails to reject your request in due time, their consent is automatically deemed to have been granted. This means that your working hours will be set as you requested. This also applies to the distribution of hours.
- For childbirths before 1 July 2015:
If your employer fails to reject your request in due time, you can take legal action. The labour court is responsible for the complaint.
If your employer agrees, you can also work for another employer or on a self-employed basis during your parental leave. You must apply for it. The application does not have to be in any particular form; however, you should briefly describe the job you want to do in it. Your employer can only reject this application in writing within 4 weeks and only for urgent operational reasons.
If you have questions about parental leave, you can turn to the Migration Counselling Office (MBE). The staff there speak many languages and are ready to help you. You can find a Migration Counselling Office (MBE) in your area on bamf.de.
If you do not work part-time, you will not receive a salary during parental leave, but you can benefit from parental allowance to finance yourself and your family during parental leave. Read more in our chapter "Parental Allowance".