Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers

Family and children

Various State benefits relieve and support families. The most important financial benefits include child benefit, supplementary child allowance and parental allowance.

1. Benefits before and after pregnancy

The Act on the Protection of Working Mothers (MuSchG) applies to (expectant) mothers who have their job in Germany. This law protects against dangers in the workplace and gives them special protection against dismissal. Expectant mothers are only allowed to work in the last 6 weeks before the birth with their consent and not at all until 8 weeks after the birth. In the case of premature and multiple births, the mothers are not allowed to work until 12 weeks after the birth. In the case of medical premature births and other premature deliveries, the statutory period of maternity leave is extended after the birth by the days that could not be used before the delivery. In addition, the law prohibits certain types of work (for example piecework, assembly line, overtime, Sunday or night work). If a doctor certifies an individual prohibition of employment, this also applies.

In order to protect women from financial disadvantages during this time, the Act on the Protection of Working Mothers regulates various maternity benefits:

  • the maternity benefit,
  • the employer subsidy to the maternity benefit during the statutory period of maternity leave,
  • the remuneration in the event of a ban on employment outside the statutory period of maternity leave (maternity pay).

2. Child benefit

You can claim German child benefit for your children if:

  • You are citizen of an EU member state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway (EEA countries) or Switzerland,
  • You have a place of residence or your usual place of residence in Germany and are therefore unrestrictedly subject to income tax. If you do not live in Germany or have your usual place of residence, but earn at least 90% of your income in Germany, you can be treated as having unlimited income upon application to the Tax Office.
  • A claim can also exist if you are subject to limited income tax in Germany because you do not live in Germany or have your habitual residence but are employed here and are subject to Social security contributions.

Please note: During the first three months after changing your place of residence or establishing your habitual residence in Germany, you are not entitled to child benefit if you have no domestic income during this time. This includes income from your work (non-self-employed or self-employed) or income from commercial operations (§ 2 para. 1 No. 1 to 4 Income Tax Act).

  • To be entitled to child benefit, you must be entitled to freedom of movement. You have the right of freedom of movement if you are doing a job (not self-employed or self-employed) or are a family member of an EU citizen (§ 2 para. 2 No. 1 or § 2 No. 2-7 Freedom of Movement Act/EU). If you are not employed, it is required that you have adequate health insurance coverage and sufficient means of subsistence. Otherwise you are not entitled to freedom of movement. This also applies to family members who are not gainfully employed.

Please note: If your right to freedom of movement results exclusively from the purpose of looking for a job (§ 2 para. 2 No. 1a Freedom of Movement Act/EU), you are not entitled to child benefit. This only does not apply if you were already in Germany due to another right of freedom of movement before you started looking for a job, for example because you have already worked before. In this case, jobseekers are also entitled to child benefit.

You usually receive child benefit for children up until their 18th birthday. These include:
• biological and adopted children,
• stepchildren,
• foster children,
• grandchildren.

If the child is older than 18 years old, you can only receive child benefit under certain conditions. Find more information on this in the FAQs.

Please note: If your family lives in another EU country, it must first be clarified which country is responsible for paying child benefit. It is possible that you will receive partial benefits in different EU countries. That depends on your family situation. Find out more about cross-border cases here.

The application for child benefit must be submitted to the Family Benefits Office by the parent with whom the child lives. Child benefit amounts to 204 Euro per month for the first and second child, 210 Euro for the third child and 235 Euro for each additional child.

Please note: From 1 January 2018, shorter deadlines apply for retrospective applications for child benefit. After receipt of your application, the Family Benefits Office will only pay you child benefit retrospectively for the past 6 months.

Further information on child benefit and how to apply (e.g. family benefits forms) can be found in multiple languages on the website of the Family Benefits Office. 

3. Supplementary child allowance

The supplementary child allowance according to § 6a of the Federal Child Benefits Act (BKGG) supports parents whose monthly income is insufficient to cover the needs of the family fully. Its purpose is to ensure that parents are not dependent on receiving Unemployment benefit II because of their children. The supplementary child allowance is a maximum of 185 Euro per child per month and, together with child benefit and, if applicable, housing benefit, covers the average needs of children. Those who receive the supplementary child allowance are also entitled to benefits for education and participation and are exempt from daycare fees.

Parents are entitled to supplementary child allowance for their children if

  • the children are not married and are under 25 years old,
  • they live in the parents’ household,
  • child benefit or a benefit is received for these children, which excludes child benefit,
  • the monthly income of the parents reaches the minimum income limit of 900 Euro for parents and 600 Euro for single parents,
  • the family's needs are covered by the payment of child benefit, supplementary child allowance and, if applicable, due housing benefit and therefore no entitlement to Unemployment benefit II arises.
  • Your income, which is offset against the supplementary child allowance, is not so high that the supplementary child allowance is reduced to zero.

Please note: A previously applicable fixed maximum income limit no longer applies since 1 January 2020!

4. Parental allowance

Parental allowance is financial support for families after the birth of a child. The parental allowance covers part of the missing income if you want to be there for your child after the birth and you therefore interrupt or limit your professional work. The entitlement to parental allowance exists if the child is domiciled in Germany or if one of the parents is or was employed in Germany. Parental allowance can be drawn by those who

  • do not work an average of more than 30 hours per week per month in the requested parental allowance months,
  • look after and bring up the child themselves,
  • live in the same household with the child and
  • have their place of residence or habitual abode in Germany.

You must apply for parental allowance at your local Parental Allowance Office. You can find the Parental Allowance Office responsible for you here.

According to the needs of the parents, the regulations on parental allowance offer different modalities.

The Basic parental allowance is 65% to 100% depending on the net income before the birth. The lower the income, the higher the percentage. It amounts to a minimum of 300 Euro and a maximum of 1,800 Euro per month. Fathers and mothers can receive it for a maximum of 14 months in total and can freely divide the period among themselves. One parent can claim a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 months. The full 14 months exist if both parents are involved in looking after the child and they lose their earned income as a result. Due to the lack of a partner, single parents can claim the full 14 months of parental allowance to compensate for the lost income. There are also other forms of parental allowance, for example for parents who want to work part-time while receiving parental allowance (Parental allowance “plus”). Find more information on this in the FAQs.

Please note: The following applies to all family benefits for EU workers: The country in which the parents work is primarily responsible for paying family benefits. You are also considered employed during parental leave, as your employment relationship continues during this time. If the parents work in different EU countries, the country in which the child lives is primarily responsible. It may be that the other (subordinate) State has to pay a difference if the benefit there would be higher than in the State primarily responsible.

5. Paternal leave

Parental leave is a right of the employee regarding the employer who usually does their work in Germany, as well as for employees who work abroad, if the employment relationship is subject to German law. With parental leave you can interrupt your employment or shorten your working hours to look after your child. If you take parental leave, you are released from work. You do not receive any wages. However, you can receive parental allowance during the period under the above conditions.

Please note: You cannot be dismissed during parental leave. The employment relationship is only suspended and you are entitled to return to your job.

In order to obtain parental leave, you have to meet certain requirements. Find more information on this in the FAQs.

6. Childcare

Children from the age of 1 have a legal entitlement to a childcare place in a child day care centre (also known as a kindergarten or “day care centre”) or in childminding (with a “child minder”). This right to care for the child applies from the first birthday until starting school.

Under certain conditions, a child under the age of 1 can also obtain a childcare place (e.g. if the parents are working, looking for work or completing an apprenticeship)

Parents can choose whether their child should be looked after in a child day care centre or by a childminder. In order to get a childcare place, you must submit an application to the responsible Youth Welfare Office.

Many Youth Welfare Offices in Germany provide appropriate forms and information on the Internet as well as an overview of the care costs involved. The Youth Welfare Offices also offer personal advice for parents and support them in finding a suitable childcare place.

Tip: If you would like to have your child looked after, you must register early. Due to the large number of interested parents, the childcare places are usually taken quickly. Many have to wait more than 6 months for a childcare place. It is best to inquire about free places as early as possible.

Care in a child day care centre is particularly beneficial for the language skills of your child. For children and adolescents who grow up with a mother tongue other than German, there are special language support offers in German in kindergarten and school.

In all Federal States, language tests are done in the child day care centre (at the latest before school enrolment) to determine whether the child needs further German lessons. This ensures that a child can follow the lessons.

Tip: For your child to be successful at school, it is important that they speak German well. So take advantage of the language support offers! In some Federal States, participation in German support programs is compulsory for those children who have found that their knowledge of German is insufficient. You can get information about the offers for German language learning directly from the kindergarten or school of your child as well as from Migration Advice and Youth Migration Services.

You can get more information on site:

  • City, municipality, district administration: Youth Welfare Offices
  • Family counselling
  • Migration advice for adult immigrants
  • Day-care centres for children (many day-care centres, for example, offer an “open day”, where you can visit the day-care centre on fixed dates and familiarise yourself with the educational concept. These open days are usually announced on the websites of the daycare centres.)

Or on the Internet:

7. Education and participation package

In particular, children, adolescents and young adults who receive Unemployment benefit II, social allowance or social assistance or whose parents receive supplementary child allowance or housing benefit, have a fundamental legal right to educational and participation benefits. These include:

  • one-day school and day-care trips,
  • class trips over several days,
  • equipping with personal school supplies with 150 Euro per school year,
  • the trips to school,
  • reasonable learning support,
  • a grant to communal lunches as well
  • Services for participation in social and cultural life in the community (sport, music, leisure).

The educational and participation benefits are to be applied for from the responsible municipal authorities in the respective Federal State. You can find out where you can apply for the services locally here.

8. In which country do I get family benefits?

Family benefits, such as child benefit or parental allowance in Germany, are available in all EU countries, but there are major differences in terms of their structure and amount depending on the country.

The question often arises as to which country is responsible for paying family benefits. That depends on the situation of your family.

  • If your family lives in the country where you are insured, that country is responsible for paying family benefits. You will receive family benefits under the same conditions and in the same amount as citizens of this country. This means that if you work in Germany and live here with your family, you will receive the same amount of family benefits as German citizens.
  • If your family does not live in the country where you are insured, you may be entitled to benefits in several countries. That depends on the rules in the respective countries. If you are eligible to receive family benefits in more than one country, rules of precedence decide which country pays. If the family benefits are higher in the other country, you can claim the difference in that country.

Example: One parent works in Germany, the other parent works in Poland and lives there with their child. Then you are entitled to child benefit in both Poland and Germany. In this case, Poland pays Polish child benefit because the child lives in Poland. Since the Polish child benefit is lower than the German child benefit, Germany pays the difference. All in all, you will receive as much child benefit as in the country with the higher benefits. 

The video on Child benefit in cross-border cases gives a good insight (also available in English and Polish). You can also find the Leaflet for child benefit in cross-border cases on the website of the Family Benefits Office. The leaflet contains information on the Family Benefits Office responsible for you.

9. Videos on family benefits

Those who have children deserve the support of the State. However, as diverse as the families are, the benefits and tax allowances they need are just as diverse. This film explains the family policy benefits of child benefit, supplementary child allowance and maintenance advance as well as tax exemptions for children and the relief amount for single parents.

The video was published under the Creative Commons license by-nc-nd/3.0/. It may be redistributed and published in an unchanged form for non-commercial purposes and including the name of the author “Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration”.

More videos on individual benefits for families