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Parental Leave & Allowance

What is parental leave?

Parental leave is a period of time completely – or at least intensively – dedicated to looking after a child. More specifically, it is a period of unpaid time off work after the birth of a child. Financial support is available from the state in the form of a parental allowance, which can be granted during parental leave if certain conditions are met.

Who is entitled to parental leave?

Mothers or fathers who wish to look after and raise their own child, a foster child, or an adopted child are entitled to up to 36 months of parental leave. During parental leave, employees are not obliged to work but their employer is obliged to offer them a job of equal standing when this period expires.

Parental leave can be taken by both parents together or by each parent separately.

Up to 24 months of the parental leave may be postponed until the period between the child‘s 3rd and 8th birthday, for example, to cover the child‘s first year at school.

What are the financial impliations?

Employment of up to 30 hours per week is permitted during parental leave. If both parents take parental leave together, they can therefore work a total of 60 hours per week (30 hours + 30 hours). This grants families a certain amount of financial security by ensuring a set income while they are looking after the child themselves.

Furthermore, parents have the option of applying for a parental allowance or ElterngeldPlus (“parental allowance plus” for parents who wish to work part-time during parental leave).

How do I apply for parental leave?

For parental leave before your child’s 3rd birthday, you must submit the application for parental leave to your employer in writing no later than 7 weeks before parental leave is due to begin. For parental leave between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthday, the notice period is 13 weeks.

In order to ensure that parental leave retains a certain flexibility while simultaneously guaranteeing the employer a reliable basis for planning, parents must specify in their application their intentions for the two years after their parental leave is due to begin. Parental leave may be split into three periods. Dividing it into further periods – or resuming work earlier or later than planned – is only possible with the agreement of the employer.

If the mother takes parental leave directly after the maternity protection period or directly after annual leave following the maternity protection period, she must only specify her intentions for the period up until the child‘s 2nd birthday. The maternity protection period after the birth of the child as well as any annual leave taken after this period count towards the two-year period.

Should the mother become pregnant again, as an employee she may end her parental leave prematurely – without the agreement of the employer – in order to benefit from the legal maternity protection periods defined in § 3(2) and § 6(1) of the Maternity Protection Act and the associated rights. In such a case, the employer should be informed of the termination of parental leave in good time. Parental leave cannot be terminated retrospectively. Parental leave can only be terminated after the employer has been informed.


Margaretha Wirtz
Social Worker
Phone: +49 2461 61-2624