Parental Leave ("Elternzeit")
How can I spend more time with my baby despite work?
Parental leave ("Elternzeit") is an unpaid 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,
- you live with your child and
- are personally responsible for looking after your child.
You are considered to be an employee when you are employed by a company, organization 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 your 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, 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".
Each parent can take up to three years of parental leave per child. In the case of the mother, however, this three-years-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 the childbirth, and mothers can 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, and they need to 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 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 the start of parental leave, provided you have already registered for your leave. From this point until the end of your parental leave, according to the law, you must not be fired. In case 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.
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".