An extensive list of family-related support and offers from Max Planck Society is on MAX (login required).
For more detailed information about maternity leave, parental leave, and allowance in Germany, see the brochure of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth (BMFSFJ):
Here, we provide an overview of maternity protection law, parental leave, allowance, and child support in Germany. Please note that the information provided here may not apply to MPG-stipend holders or third-part fellows who do not have an employment contract.
PREGNANCY AND MATERNITY PROTECTION LAW
The Maternity Protection Act “Mutterschutzgesetz-MuSchG” protects the rights, safety, and health of a pregnant and breastfeeding woman, and her (unborn) child while ensuring that her employment and income are secure.
Who is protected?
Any person with an employment contract in Germany, who is pregnant, has given birth to a child or is breastfeeding, regardless of their nationality or marital status, or sex is protected. Full-time, part-time, fixed-term, or min-job employment contracts are all protected under this law.
Note: This law does not apply to adoptive mothers, self-employed mothers, or mothers without employment contracts in Germany.
When to announce to your employer?
You can decide when to inform your employer. However, for the health/safety of you and your (unborn) child, it is recommended to announce as early as possible (ideally during the first three months), especially if you work in a biosafety laboratory S1-S4 and do experiments using chemical/hazardous reagents and work with animals, viruses or bacteria. If the employer requires a medical certificate, they must cover the cost of obtaining it. Please bear in mind that your employer cannot disclose the information about your pregnancy to third parties, and if you apply for a job during your pregnancy, you are not required to disclose your pregnancy when asked at an interview or during the application process.
Tips on how to announce your pregnancy to your employer, discuss your maternity leave plan, future working hours, and work-life balance can be found here.
Duration of maternity protection
Maternity protection starts from the beginning of pregnancy until after childbirth and during the breastfeeding period. Protection from dismissal applies from the beginning of the pregnancy, up to four months after the birth, or during the parental leave, regardless of whether the employer is informed or not (see 3.1). The statutory protection period is 14 weeks (6 weeks before the estimated delivery date, and 8 weeks after delivery). In some cases (e.g. premature birth, multiple births, child with a disability), the period after birth can be extended to 12 weeks.
Can a woman work during the statutory protection period?
Employers are not allowed to have women perform work during the 14 weeks' statutory protection period. Upon official request of the woman, and with permission certificate from the gynecologist, the woman is only allowed to work during the protection period before the estimated delivery date (6 weeks before). However, mothers are absolutely prohibited from work during the 8 weeks protection period after birth.
ENTITLED BENEFITS AND SUPPORTS BEFORE AND AFTER CHILDBIRTH
Women are entitled to various benefits before and after childbirth, in particular during the statutory periods of maternity protection.
Payments during the protection periods
During the statutory maternity leave (6 weeks before the delivery date and 8 weeks after childbirth), the mother receives maternity benefit (“Mutterschaftsgeld”) from health insurance and a top-up payment from the employer (Arbeitgeberzuschuss). This benefit is equivalent to the full salary of the mother before the beginning of maternity leave. If a mother extends the maternity leave beyond the statutory 14 weeks, the parental allowance will be received which is not the full salary amount (go to parental leave and allowance).
Who is entitled to receive maternity benefits?
Women with compulsory or voluntary health insurance are eligible. Women who are not insured with statutory health insurance (e.g. housewives; self-employed persons who do not have voluntary statutory health insurance) are not entitled to benefits under the Maternity Protection Act and receive only a maximum of € 210 for the entire statutory protection period.
If you are on an MPG stipend or third-party fellowship and voluntarily paid for statutory health insurance, you are entitled to receive maternity benefits.
Parental leave ("Elternzeit")
Both parents can take parental leave either alternately or simultaneously. The entitlement for parental leave exists until the child reaches three years old.
Who is entitled to parental leave and allowance?
- Permanent residence or right to live in Germany
- German employment contract (full-time, part-time, fixed-term, permanent)
- Joint household with the child
- No employment or only part-time employment (less than 32 hours/week) during leave
During the leave period, parent(s) will receive "Elterngeld" or parental allowance from the government which serves as financial compensation and is not equivalent to full salary before parental leave.
Postdocs on MPG stipends, third-party fellowships (without employment contract), or their unemployed partners are not entitled to parental leave and allowance.
There are three types of parental allowances:
a) The basic parental allowance (Elterngeld):
Depending on the family situation and parent’s decision, the basic parental allowance can be drawn concurrently, sequentially, or alternately:
Only one parent on leave: In this scenario, the parental leave is a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12 months. Note that the parent on leave must have a German employment contract.
Single Parents: For single parents (with employment contracts), parental allowance can be extended to 14 months.
Both parents on leave: If both parents have employment contracts in Germany, they can take parental leave alternately or simultaneously. In this case, they are entitled to 14 months in total, and are free to split the time between them: for example, one parent can apply for a parental allowance for a maximum of 12 months, and the other for 2 months (12+2), or both parents take 7 months (7+7).
How much is the basic parental allowance? The basic parental allowance is 65% of the pre-birth net yearly income of the parent(s) on leave, ranging from 300-1800 euros/month. This means that MPG postdocs receive 1800 euros/month.
b) The parental allowance plus (ElterngeldPlus):
If both parents have an employment contract in Germany, they are allowed to extend the period of leave twice longer than the basic parental leave (24 months). Importantly, however, each parent will receive half of the basic parental allowance (150-900 Euro/month).
For example, if both parents are MPG postdocs, each will receive 900 euros/month. It is possible to freely combine basic parental allowance with parental allowance plus.
c) The partnership bonus (Partnerschaftbonus):
Working parents can apply for the partnership bonus (“Partnerschaftbonus”), which provides them working between 25 and 30 hours per week simultaneously over a period of 4 months with an extra 4 months of parental allowance plus funding.
All above-mentioned parental allowances are tax-free, but increase the average tax rate when filing the income tax return. To learn more about taxation and parental allowance, see here:
Please keep in mind that it is legal to combine the basic parental allowance, parental allowance plus, and the partnership bonus. For details on the various possible scenarios, see the BMFSFJ brochures linked at the top and in the left sidebar of this page.
For further info, please check the following pages:
How to apply for the parental allowance?
Statutory health insurance benefits
Expecting mothers are entitled to some statutory health insurance benefits including medical care, midwife assistance, domestic help, and birth preparation course.
If expecting parents decide to do prenatal diagnostics tests (“Pränataldiagnostik”), the cost must be covered personally, unless such tests were prescribed by the gynecologist.
HOLIDAY ENTITLEMENT AND MATERNITY LEAVE
Mothers are not allowed to work during the 8-weeks after birth due to an employment ban. Hence, the time on maternity leave is counted as working time. However, the employer has the right to reduce time spent on parental leave (any time after the maternity protection period) from your holidays. Please note that it is possible to transfer the leftover holidays to next year.
EXTENSION OF EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT
Fixed-term employment contracts can be “paused” during the parental leave, such that parent(s) on leave still have the same remaining time as before going on leave. The following conditions are prerequisites for the contract extension:
- Your employment contract is not limited because of third-party funding
- You do not work part-time in the same employment relationship during parental leave
- You agree to the extension
Please note that the parental leave time does not count to the incremental salary increases (Stufe progression on TV-L or TVÖD). When you resume work, it will continue as before.
More information can be found on:
You need to do much paperwork before and after childbirth to obtain maternity benefits and parental allowance. To help you through the paperwork and bureaucracy, visit here.
Child support - “Kindergeld”
Every family receives a monthly child benefit of approximately 219 EUR per child for the first and second children, and 250 euros per child for each additional child. For further info on how to request it, please check the following pages:
Child care subsidy for infants
MAX PLANCK FOUNDATION
From July 2017 until the end of 2021, the Max Planck Society had a pilot project to support scientists with their daycare costs. Those who had children between three months and one year could subsidize the monthly expenses for daycare up to 50% by this special program. This support was intended primarily for doctoral students and postdocs at the Max Planck Institutes and offers new opportunities to combine work and family life. It is not known whether MPG will continue this project later on. (Source)
CHRISTIANE NUSSLEIN-VOLHARD FOUNDATION
The foundation for the promotion of science and research, established in 2004, supports talented young female scientists with children to give them the freedom and mobility they need for a scientific career. The foundation wants to help prevent outstanding talent in scientific research from being lost. It is aimed at doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in a subject in the experimental natural sciences or medicine. Financial assistance will be granted for decreasing the amount of time spent on chores and for additional childcare. The grant can be used to, for example, hire household assistance, buy a dishwasher or a washing machine, and for additional childcare (during the evenings or while attending conferences). Living expenses must already be covered by a salary or a fellowship, and the child/children need to already be babysat/supervised during normal working hours (e.g., at a daycare facility or other). (More information available in German and English)
Nurseries, Childcare and Schools
KiTa is the German term for various forms of childcare, which include nurseries, kindergartens, and after-school care. Every child has the legal right to attend kindergarten between the ages of three and six. Compulsory education (“Schulpflicht”) begins at the age of six.
Many Max Planck Institutes offer childcare places with cooperation partners on Institute sites or in the facilities of external nurseries. Many Max Planck Institutes also have parent-child offices, in which employees can work in the presence of their child in an emergency.
In general, the childcare options can be divided into four types:
- Nurseries (“Kinderkrippe”) for children under 3 years
- Preschools (“Kindergarten”) for children between 3 - 6 years
- Childminders (“Tagespflege” or “Tagesmütter”/“Tagesväter”) for children up to 3 years
- After-school care (“Schulhort” or “Hort”) - for children attending primary school
The availability, quality and opening hours of nurseries vary widely within Germany and cities. Early applications and visits are therefore essential to find a place. Pre-school education is usually subsidized by the state, but prices vary from municipality to municipality. Schools are free, but after-school programs and lunches are not.