1. Benefits before and after giving birth
The Act on the Protection of Working Mothers (Mutterschutzgesetz) applies to (expectant) mothers who have a job in Germany. It protects them from dangers in the workplace and gives them special protection against dismissal. Expectant mothers may only work in the last six weeks before the birth if they agree to do so, and are not permitted to work at all for 8 weeks after the birth. In the case of premature births and multiple births, mothers are not permitted to work for 12 weeks after the birth. In the case of premature births and other early deliveries, maternity leave is extended after the birth by the number of days of leave which could not be taken before the birth. In addition, the Act prohibits certain types of work (such as piece-work, assembly line work, overtime, Sunday working or night work). If a doctor provides a certificate stating that an individual woman is not allowed to work, then this also applies.
To protect women from financial disadvantages during this period, the Act on the Protection of Working Mothers provides for various types of maternity support:
2. Child benefit (Kindergeld)
As an EU citizen, you are entitled to German child benefit for your children if:
- you are subject to unlimited income tax liability in Germany. This is usually the case if you live in Germany. If you do not live in Germany but earn at least 90% of your income in Germany, you can apply to be treated as subject to unlimited income tax liability.
- your children live in Germany, the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Switzerland.
You normally receive child benefit for children until their 18th birthday. This includes:
- biological and adopted children
- foster children
After a child’s 18th birthday, you can only receive child benefit in certain circumstances. More information on this is available in the FAQ.
Please note: If your family lives in another EU country, it is necessary to first establish which country is responsible for paying child benefit. It is possible that you will receive partial payments in more than one EU country. It depends on your family’s circumstances. Find out more here.
The application for child benefit must be submitted to the Family Benefits Office (Familienkasse) by the parent with whom the child lives. Child benefit amounts to 204 euros per month each for the first and second children, 210 euros for the third child and 235 euros for each additional child.
Further information on child benefit and how to apply for it can be found on the Family Benefits Office’s website.
3. Supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag)
The supplementary child allowance under Section 6a of the Federal Child Benefits Act (Bundeskindergeldgesetz) is a maximum of 185 euros per child per month and, together with child benefit, meets a child’s average needs.
Parents are entitled to the supplementary child allowance for their children if
- the children are unmarried and under the age of 25,
- the children live with their parents,
- child benefit is received for these children, or a benefit which precludes receipt of child benefit,
- the parents’ monthly income is at least 900 euros in the case of couples and 600 euros in the case of single parents,
- the income and assets considered do not exceed the maximum income limit (assessment ceiling plus the total supplementary child allowance), and
- payment of the supplementary child allowance and housing benefit, if applicable, covers the family’s needs, and so there is no entitlement to unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II).
4. Parental allowance (Elterngeld)
The parental allowance is a form of financial support for families after the birth of a child. It compensates for part of the loss of income if you want to be there for your child after the birth and therefore take a break from your work or reduce your hours. Entitlement to the parental allowance exists if the child is resident in Germany or one parent is or was employed in Germany. You can receive the parental allowance if you
- work on average no more than 30 hours per week in the months for which you are applying for the parental allowance,
- are caring for and bringing up the child personally,
- live in the same household as the child, and
- have your residence or habitual abode in Germany.
You must apply for the parental allowance from your local Parental Allowance Office (Elterngeldstelle). You can find your local office here.
The rules on the parental allowance offer different options depending on parents’ needs.
The basic parental allowance (Basiselterngeld) compensates for 65% to 100% of the loss of income after the child’s birth, depending on the recipient’s net income prior to the birth. The lower the income, the higher the percentage. The minimum amount is 300 euros per month, while the maximum is 1800 euros per month. Parents can receive the basic parental allowance for a maximum of 14 months in total and can split this time freely between themselves. One parent can claim the allowance for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12 months. The allowance can only be claimed for the full 14 months if both parents are involved in caring for the child and both suffer a loss of income as a result. As single parents do not have a partner, they can receive the parental allowance for the full 14 months to compensate for their loss of income. There are also other forms of parental allowance, for example for parents who want to work part-time while receiving the allowance. More information on this is available in the FAQ.
Please note: In the case of all family benefits for EU workers, the country where the parents work is primarily responsible for paying family benefits. If the parents work in different EU countries, the country where the child lives is primarily responsible. It is possible that the other Member State will have to make up the difference if the benefit paid by the first country is lower than the benefit which the second country would have to pay. You continue to be classified as a worker during parental leave, as your employment relationship continues to exist during this period.
5. Parental leave (Elternzeit)
Employees are entitled to be granted parental leave by their employer if they normally carry out their work in Germany, or if they work abroad but their employment is subject to German law. Parental leave enables you to take a break from work or reduce your hours in order to look after your child. If you take parental leave, you are released from your work. You do not receive any pay. However, you can receive the parental allowance (Elterngeld) during this period, subject to the conditions set out above.
Please note: While you are on parental leave, you cannot be dismissed; your employment is merely suspended, and you have the right to return to your job.
You must meet certain conditions in order to receive parental leave. More information on this is available in the FAQ.
6. Childcare (Kinderbetreuung)
Children aged 1 and above have a legal right to a childcare place in a child day care centre (Kindertagesstätte, also known as a Kindergarten or “Kita”) or with a childminder (a “Tagesmutter” or “Tagesvater”). This entitlement to childcare applies from the child’s first birthday until he or she starts school.
In certain circumstances, a child under the age of 1 can also receive a childcare place (for example, if the parents are working, seeking employment or undertaking vocational training).
Parents can choose whether their child is to be placed in a child day care centre or with a childminder. To receive a childcare place, you must submit an application to the local youth welfare office (Jugendamt).
Many youth welfare offices in Germany offer the relevant forms and information online and provide an overview of the applicable childcare costs. The youth welfare offices also offer parents personal advice and support them in finding a suitable childcare place.
Tip: If you want to access childcare for your child, you must register at an early stage. Due to the large number of parents who are interested, childcare places are usually allocated quickly. Many people wait more than 6 months for a place. It is therefore best to enquire about free places as early as possible.
Childcare in a child day care centre is very beneficial for your child’s language skills, in particular. Child day care centres and schools offer special services to develop the German language skills of children and young people who are growing up with a native language other than German.
In all of Germany’s Länder (federal states), language tests take place in child day care centres (before children start school, at the latest) in order to determine whether the children need further German language tuition. This ensures that they are able to follow the lessons.
Tip: It is important for your children to speak German well so they can do well at school. So be sure to take advantage of the services which are available to develop their language skills! In some Länder, language development services are compulsory for children whose German language skills are inadequate. Information about services to develop children’s German language skills can be obtained directly from your child’s day care centre or school, as well as from the migration advice service (Migrationsberatung) and the youth migration services (Jugendmigrationsdienste).
More detailed information is available from the following institutions:
- Local authorities at town, municipal and county level: youth welfare offices
- Family advice services (Familienberatung)
- Migration advice service for adult immigrants
- Child day care centres (many centres hold an “open day”, for example, which are fixed dates when you can visit the centre and learn about its educational approach. These open days are usually announced on the centres’ websites.)
7. Education and participation package (Bildungs- und Teilhabepaket)
Children, adolescents and young adults, in particular, who receive unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II), the social allowance (Sozialgeld) or social assistance (Sozialhilfe), or whose parents receive the supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag) or housing benefit (Wohngeld), normally have a legal entitlement to assistance for education and participation. This covers:
- one-day outings organised by schools and day care centres,
- school trips lasting several days,
- personal school supplies,
- travel to school,
- appropriate learning support,
- an allowance towards school lunches, and
- assistance for participation in the social and cultural life of the community (sport, music, leisure activities).
You can apply for assistance for education and participation from the competent municipal offices of the Land (federal state) in question. You can find out here where to apply for this assistance in your area.
8. Where do I receive family benefits?
Although family benefits, which in Germany include child benefit or the parental allowance, exist in all EU countries, there are major differences from country to country in terms of the nature and level of these benefits.
One common question concerns which country is responsible for paying family benefits. This depends on your family’s situation.
- If your family lives in the country whose social security system you are subject to, this country is responsible for paying family benefits. You receive the same amount in family benefits as nationals of that country, and are subject to the same conditions. This means that if you are working in Germany and living here with your family, you will receive the same amount in family benefits as German nationals.
- If your family does not live in the country whose social security system you are subject to, it is possible that you may be entitled to benefits in more than one country. It depends on the rules in the countries in question. If you are entitled to receive family benefits in multiple countries, priority rules determine which country is primarily responsible for payment. If the family benefits are higher in the other country, you can claim the difference in that country.
Example: One parent works in Germany, while the other works in Poland and lives there with their child. In this case, an entitlement to child benefit exists in both Poland and Germany. Poland pays the Polish child benefit in this case because the child lives in Poland. As Polish child benefit is lower than German child benefit, Germany pays the difference. In other words, you receive as much child benefit in total as you would in the country with the higher benefits.
9. Explanatory videos about family benefits
People who have children deserve support from the state. Yet families come in many different forms, and the benefits and tax allowances they require are just as varied. This video explains the following family benefits: child benefit, the supplementary child allowance, maintenance advances, tax allowances for children and tax relief for single parents.
This video has been published under Creative Commons Licence by-nc-nd/3.0/. It may be distributed and published unchanged for non-commercial purposes with the following attribution: “Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration”.
Video: Child benefit (Kindergeld)
Video: Tax allowances for children (Freibeträge für Kinder)
Video: Supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag)
Video: Maintenance advance (Unterhaltsvorschuss)
Video: Tax relief for single parents (Entlastungsbetrag)
- Child benefit can be paid for children aged 18 or over if
they are undertaking their first programme of school-based or in-company vocational training, university studies or internships. Your child must be acquiring knowledge which will form the basis for him or her to pursue his or her intended profession.
- they are undertaking a second programme of vocational training and working only a limited amount, if at all. If your child works more than an average of 20 hours per week over the year, child benefit is no longer paid (with an exception in the case of “450 euro” jobs).
- they are unable to begin a vocational training programme due to the lack of a vocational training place. You must also provide evidence that your child is seeking a vocational training place. For example, your child may be registered with an Employment Agency or job centre as seeking a vocational training place.
- they are unemployed, and registered with an Employment Agency or job centre as a jobseeker. This applies only until they reach the age of 21.
- they are volunteering in the framework of the Federal Voluntary Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) or a similar form of voluntary service.
- they are in a transitional phase between two stages of their vocational training programme. This applies for a maximum of four months.
- they are unable to support themselves due to a disability.
Maternity benefit safeguards the income of an expectant or new mother during the statutory period of maternity leave, when she is not permitted to work. Maternity benefit is paid by the statutory health insurance funds during the pre-natal and post-natal statutory period of leave, and on the day of the birth itself. Only women who have statutory health insurance and who are entitled to be paid sickness benefit (Krankengeld) receive maternity benefit.
The amount of maternity benefit paid depends on the recipient’s average net pay over the last three paid calendar months or thirteen weeks, and it is limited to a maximum of 13 euros per calendar day. To receive maternity benefit, you must submit to your health insurance fund a certificate from a doctor or midwife stating the date when you are expected to give birth.
Employees who are not members of a statutory health insurance fund (because they have private health insurance coverage, for example, or are co-insured in a statutory health insurance scheme as a family member) receive a maximum of 210 euros in maternity benefit in total. The competent agency for this is the Federal Insurance Office (Bundesversicherungsamt), specifically its Maternity Benefit Unit (Mutterschaftsgeldstelle).
If the employee’s daily net pay is higher than 13 euros, the employer makes up the difference; this is known as the employer’s maternity benefit top-up payment.
You receive maternity pay if
- you stop working before the beginning of the statutory period of maternity leave, or
- you are not yet able to work after the end of this period, or
- your employer gives you a different, less well-paid job.
You do not need to worry about financial disadvantages. At a minimum, you receive your average pay over the last thirteen weeks or the last three months before you became pregnant (maternity pay). You have to pay tax and social security contributions on maternity pay.
- An application for child benefit can generally only be submitted by the parent with whom the child lives.
- The application must be submitted in writing to the Family Benefits Office (Familienkasse). The Family Benefits Office does not provide confirmation of receipt. It is therefore advisable to send letters to the Family Benefits Office by registered post with a form for acknowledgement of receipt (Einschreiben mit Rückschein). You can contact the Family Benefits Office by telephone to enquire about the progress in processing your application.
- It can currently take several months to process child benefit applications. Once the Family Benefits Office has processed the application, you will either receive a decision on the application or you will be asked to provide additional documentation. You should comply with any such request as quickly as possible to avoid further delays.
- You can receive child benefit retroactively for the last 4 years before the application was submitted.
- Throughout the entire application process, you are obliged to notify the Family Benefits Office about changes in your personal circumstances, without prior request. This includes, in particular, changes to your address, your bank details or your employer. Any failure to comply with this obligation leads to delays in the process and can also result in your application being denied.
- If you are notified that your application for child benefit is being denied, the denial becomes final after the time limit has expired in which you can challenge the decision, i.e. 1 month after you receive notification of the denial. After that time, you are unable to receive child benefit for the period in question, regardless of whether the denial of your application was lawful or unlawful.
Further information can be found in the leaflet on child benefit in cross-border cases published by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit).
The cost of childcare depends on the municipality in question. The municipalities meet a large proportion of the costs (regardless of whether the childcare is provided by a municipal or private facility or by a childminder). Parents pay a contribution which is calculated on the basis of the family’s income. Private day care centres are often more expensive than municipal centres.
The basic parental allowance (Basiselterngeld) compensates for 65% to 100% of the loss of income after the child’s birth, depending on the recipient’s net income prior to the birth. The lower the income, the higher the percentage. The minimum amount is 300 euros per month, while the maximum is 1800 euros per month. Parents can receive it for a maximum of 14 months in total and can split this time freely between themselves. One parent can claim the allowance for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12 months. The allowance can only be claimed for the full 14 months if both parents are involved in caring for the child and both suffer a loss of income as a result. As single parents do not have a partner, they can receive the parental allowance for the full 14 months to compensate for their loss of income.
Parental allowance “plus” (ElterngeldPlus) (for births from 1 July 2015 onwards): The parental allowance “plus” is intended for parents who work part-time while receiving the parental allowance. Like the basic parental allowance, it offsets 65% to 100% of the loss of income resulting from working part-time, depending on the recipient’s income. The maximum amount of parental allowance “plus” is half of the basic parental allowance to which the parent would be entitled without any income from part-time work (in other words, a minimum of 150 euros and a maximum of 900 euros per month). However, the parental allowance “plus” is provided for twice as long: one month of the basic parental allowance = two months of the parental allowance “plus”.
Partnership bonus (Partnerschaftsbonus): If both parents work part-time at the same time and work between 25 and 30 hours per week on average in four consecutive months, each parent receives additional monthly payments of the parental allowance “plus” for these four months (partnership bonus).
If you are an employee in Germany, you can take parental leave to care for and bring up a child. To receive parental leave, you must live in the same household as the child. Both parents are entitled to parental leave. Parental leave is considered separately for each parent. During parental leave, parents are allowed to work up to 30 hours per week (in other words, a joint total of up to 60 hours per week).
If your child was born before 1 July 2015, you can take 12 months of parental leave. You can also transfer your parental leave to a period between the child’s third and eighth birthdays, if your employer agrees. Your parental leave can be taken as two separate blocks of leave.
For births from 1 July 2015 onwards, you can take 24 months of parental leave. It is also possible for you to take the leave between the child’s third and eighth birthdays. Your parental leave can be taken as 3 separate blocks of leave. Your employer may only deny you permission to take the third block of leave if there are urgent operational grounds for doing so and your child is 3 or older.
There are many different types of childcare available in Germany. Most child day care centres are run by the municipalities, but many are also run by churches or parents’ initiatives. There are also a growing number of privately run centres.
The following types of childcare exist in Germany:
For children up to 3 years of age:
- Childminders (Tagesmütter/Tagesväter)
- Crèches (Kinderkrippen)
- Mixed-age child day care centres (altersgemischte Kindergärten)
- Parents’ initiatives (Elterninitiativen)
From the age of 3 until children start school:
- Child day care centres (Kindergärten)
- Childminders (Tagesmütter/Tagesväter)
From school age:
- All-day schools (Ganztagsschulen)
- After-school facilities (Horte)
- After-school homework supervision (Hausaufgabenbetreuung), usually organised by private initiatives
The following priority rules determine which country is responsible for payment:
- In principle, the country responsible is the country where you are employed, self-employed, or receiving a pension.
- If you are entitled to family benefits in two countries because you work on a self-employed or employed basis in both, the country responsible is the one where your child lives. If your child does not live in either of these two countries, but instead in another EU country, the country responsible is the one where the benefits are higher.
- If you are entitled to family benefits in two countries because you are receiving a pension in both, the country responsible is the one where your child lives. If your child does not live in either of these two countries, but instead in another EU country, the country responsible is the one whose social security system you were subject to the longest or where you lived the longest.
- If neither parent is working or receiving a pension, an entitlement to child benefit can only exist in the country where the child lives.
- The Peters family live in Germany. Mr Peters works in the Netherlands and commutes to work each day, while Mrs Peters is a housewife. The family are entitled to German child benefit because they live in Germany. At the same time, they are entitled to child benefit from the Netherlands because Mr Peters works there.
The priority rules state that the Netherlands is primarily responsible for paying child benefit, as an entitlement exists there due to work. However, as child benefit in Germany is higher than in the Netherlands, the family not only receive child benefit from the Netherlands; they also receive the difference compared to German child benefit.
- Mrs Meyer works in Germany. Mr Meyer lives with their daughter in Slovakia, where he receives a pension. Mr Meyer is therefore entitled to child benefit in Slovakia. Mrs Meyer is entitled to child benefit in Germany because she works there.
Germany is primarily responsible, as the entitlement in Germany is due to work, while the entitlement in Slovakia is due to a pension. The family receive German child benefit. As child benefit in Slovakia is lower than in Germany, no additional benefits are received in Slovakia.
Further information can be found in the Federal Employment Agency’s
Merkblatt über Kindergeld in grenzüberschreitenden Fällen
. The last page of the leaflet lists the Family Benefits Offices (Familienkassen) to which you can submit your application for child benefit, depending on which EU Member State you come from.