It’s Mat Leave Monday! Today I’ll be talking about maternity leave in Germany. I have heard that they get up to three years leave with each child, so I was very interested to learn more myself. As always, I have no first-hand experience with German maternity leave. If you would like to find more information in English you can refer to this summary of parental leave, AngloInfo Berlin, or the German Missions in the United States. If you need information in German you are probably miles ahead of me already.
I will say that I was not able to find much detailed information in English from the German government on maternity leave, parental leave, or adoption leave. The information I did find supported my secondary sources, so I hope that it is up-to-date. If you have more direct information I would love to hear from you.
German mothers receive employment protection throughout pregnancy, and for 4 months after birth. You are expected to provide written notice of the pregnancy to your employer as early as possible, but because your job is protected this works in your favour. Actual maternity leave is 6 weeks before the birth, and 8 weeks after at full pay. I’m not sure what happens if the baby goes overdue, though. In the case of multiple births, mothers can take 12 weeks after. Privately insured and self-employed women receive maternity pay, but a lower, capped amount.
In addition to maternity leave, parents can take up to three years parental leave, or Elternzeit. This leave is unpaid, and may be taken by either parent. Adoptive parents are also eligible for parental leave, and may take 3 years off from the date of adoption.
There is a de facto system that provides for paid parental leave for birth parents through the Child Allowance, or Elterngeld. Beginning in January 2007 mothers may take 12 months at 67 percent of their pay. This is increased to 14 months of combined leave, if parental leave is shared with the father. The minimum monthly payout is â‚¬300 (roughly $464 CAD or $424 USD), and the maximum is â‚¬1800 (roughly $2790 CAD or $2540 USD). Since introducing this policy the number of parental leave applications from men increased from 3.5% to 7%. Although less than 1% of German men take advantage of the option of staying home with their babies for a year.
Germany is definitely taking steps in the right direction, by providing a more generous Child Allowance and creating specific provisions for fathers. And the benefits they do offer are fairly well-funded. Although I still think that the maternity leave plans in Norway and Sweden are better, Germany definitely stands apart as a country working to support new families.