Under the Bundeselterngeldgesetz (Federal Parental Allowance Act), parents can apply for Elterngeld (parental allowance). The idea behind the new law is that parents who work less in order to look after a child should be compensated for the resulting financial loss. In addition, the law aims to provide an incentive for both parents to look after their child by providing for Partnermonate (‘partner months’). Partnermonate are only granted where both parents take at least two months parental leave for the purpose of looking after their child and during that time work an average of minimale 24 and maximale 32 hours per week.
To apply for Elterngeld, you must:
- be officially resident in or ordinarily resident in Germany
- live with your child
- look after and raise the child yourself
- not work more than 32 hours per week
- have an income below € 300,000 as a couple and € 250.000 as a single parent per year.
If you are not a German national, in order to apply for Elterngeld you must be in possession of one of the following residence documents:
- Niederlassungserlaubnis (permanent residence permit)
- Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer Erwerbstätigkeit (residence permit for the purpose of economic activity)
Under EU law, as long as they are economically active and live in Germany, citizens of EU/EEA Member States or Switzerland generally have the same entitlement to Elterngeld as German citizens.
The Elterngeld rate is 65 to 67% of the monthly net income earned by the parent who looks after the child in the 12 months prior to the month of the child’s birth.
- The minimum amount is € 300.
- The maximum amount is € 1,800.
Parents who have no income prior to the birth of their child, e.g. school pupils, students, housewives/househusbands and people receiving Bürgergeld unemployment benefit, are also entitled to Elterngeld.
Parents with a low income
The percentage rate of 67% is modified where the recipient earns less than €1,000 per month. People earning less than € 1,000 per month receive an additional 0.1% Elterngeld for every € 2 that their income is below € 1,000. If your income is € 998 per month, for example, the Elterngeld rate is 67.1%, rather than 67%. If your income is € 340 per month the Elterngeld rate is 100% and you will receive € 340 Elterngeld per month.
How long is Elterngeld paid for?
A couple is entitled to 14 months Basic-Elterngeld starting with the birth of their child. One of the parents is entitled to a maximum of 12 months Elterngeld. To receive the full 14 month entitlement, the other parent must look after the child for the remaining two months.
It is also possible for both partners to receive Elterngeld at the same time. The length of time for which Elterngeld is paid is then reduced accordingly.
Parents of children who were born at least 6 weeks prematurely can claim additional months of parental allowance.
If you claim ElterngeldPlus, the reference period may be extended. If you apply for ElterngeldPlus, you will receive half of the Elterngeld over twice as many months. The prerequisite for the ElterngeldPlus amounting to 50% of the regular Elterngeld is that you have no income after the birth of the child. Otherwise, this would be credited pro rata.
Single parents can claim 14 months Elterngeld.
The period for which Elterngeld is paid can be extended to a maximum of 46 months (ElterngeldPlus – for more information please contact the Elterngeld office).
One more exception:
Parents who meet the following criteria can also claim 14 months Elterngeld:
- their partner is genuinely unable to take parental leave
- their partner taking parental leave would be injurious to the child’s wellbeing
In Münster, applications for Elterngeld should be submitted to the Amt für Kinder, Jugendliche und Familien (Child and Family Welfare Office).
If they live with their child and predominately look after and raise the child themselves, employees are entitled to three years of parental leave. Parents taking parental leave can claim Elterngeld/ElterngeldPlus until the child is two years old.
Each parent can take up to three years parental leave. It can be taken by both parents at the same time or taken by each parent in turn.
It can be taken any time after the birth and can be taken over three separate periods. With the agreement of your employer, up to two years of parental leave can be taken between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthdays. Where the length of time between children is short, doing so may extend the total length of parental leave.
How to apply and protection from dismissal
Parents-to-be must inform their employer in writing of the start date and length of parental leave at least 7 weeks in advance. (After the child reaches the age of 3, at least 13 weeks in advance.) Parents-to-be are protected against dismissal as soon as they have notified their employer of the dates of their parental leave (but not more than 8 weeks before parental leave is due to start or 14 weeks if the child is aged 3 or over) and until their parental leave finishes.
Permitted weekly working hours
The permitted part-time work during parental leave is up to 32 hours per week for each parent.
Assuming certain conditions are met, employees in companies with more than 15 employees have a legal right to work part-time during the period of parental leave and are entitled to resume their original working hours.
Parents who have health insurance through a statutory health insurance provider continue to have insurance cover during their parental leave without being required to make any payments to the insurer from their Elterngeld.
Note: c.u.b.a. unemployment advisory service provides information and advice on opportunities and risks of parental leave in connection with unemployment and returning to work afterwards.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has published a brochure on Elterngeld and parental leave.
A copy can be ordered free of charge by calling the Münster Elterngeld Office or online on the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth website.
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Thu 2.30 pm – 6 pm