Getting used to motherhood can be a bit easier in Germany than in other countries. Due to a very social system, you will have maternity leave in Germany (Mutterschutz) – mandatory time off from work, before and after childbirth.
What is maternity leave in Germany?
Anyone who works in Germany and becomes pregnant is legally entitled to fourteen weeks off as maternity leave – at least six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth. You can extend your leave up to 12 weeks if you have a premature, cesarean, or multiple births, or if your child is born with a disability.
Here is a video explaining the basics of paid leave for mothers in Germany. The video is in German, with English subtitles:
If you wish to work until you give birth, you are legally allowed to do so. You just need to inform your employer. However, you are not allowed to waive the mandatory time off after you give birth. Meaning that you need to be away from your job at least eight weeks after your child is born.
Who is eligible for maternity leave in Germany?
Every woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding may go on maternity leave as long as they work in Germany or work abroad under a German contract, regardless of marital status or nationality.
The following women cannot apply for maternity leave in Germany:
- Stay at home wives
- 100% Self-employed women
- Board members of companies
- Managing directors of a legal entity who don’t have an ’employee’ title
- Adoptive mothers
Further reading: Best German City to Live for Families
Job Protection during your time away from work in Germany
The job protection (Kündigungsschutz), protects you from being fired from the moment your pregnancy begins until up to four months after childbirth.
If you apply for parental leave (Elternzeit), the protection against dismissal can be extended.
Related Guide: Parental Leave in Germany [Elternzeit]
This job protection only applies if you have informed your employer that your pregnant, if you have already given birth, or have had a miscarriage.
However, don’t think that firing you during this time is impossible. There are some extreme cases where the employer has the right to let a mother go; these include the following:
- The company is insolvent
- The company closes some departments
- The company you work for is small, and they cannot continue without a qualified replacement
- You have done something seriously wrong and have not fulfilled your duties
If your employer decides to fire you because of any of the cases mentioned above, they need to submit a written application to a specific government office in your state. Only if the government office agrees to their request, you may be fired. You may find a list of these offices on the official page of the Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women, and Children (in German).
Protection at Work for Mom and Child in Germany
The Maternity Protection Act protects mothers from performing tasks at their job, which may pose a health risk to the mother and/or child.
If you are an expecting or nursing mother, these are some of the benefits you get in your workplace from the Maternity Protection Act:
Regulated Work hours
- If you need to work between 8 pm and 10 pm, you need to expressly agree to this, and your employer needs to get a permit from the responsible supervisory authority.
- You are not allowed to work between 10 pm and 6 am.
- You are not allowed to work on Sundays or holidays unless you expressly agree to do so. If you do, you should have at least 11 hours of rest between shifts, and you should receive an alternative day of rest to compensate.
- You are not allowed to work overtime.
- If you are under 18, you cannot work more than 8 hours a day and no more than 80 hours in two consecutive weeks.
- If you are over 18, you cannot work more than 8.5 hours a day and no more than 90 hours in two consecutive weeks.
Controlled Work environment
- The employer needs to provide you with a healthy and safe work environment.
- You cannot perform heavy physical labor; this means any job where you regularly or occasionally lift or move loads over 5 KG without any mechanical help.
- You cannot work with materials, substances, gases, or extreme elements that could endanger your pregnancy.
- You may not perform jobs that require you to stretch, bend, or crouch often.
- You may not work with machines that cause stress to your feet.
- You may not work from the 6th month onwards if you have to stand constantly.
Your benefits during the nursing period in Germany
Breastfeeding is a very important part of a child’s development. The Maternity Protection Act strives to allow women to take as much time as possible to breastfeed a newborn.
If you go back to work while you are breastfeeding, your employer must allow you to take ‘nursing breaks’ until your child’s first birthday.
You can take two 30-minute nursing breaks or one full hour per day. If you work more than 8 hours without having at least 2 hours of break, you can request 45-minute nursing breaks twice a day. If you can’t breastfeed your child near your workplace, you may request a 90-minute break.
You do not have to work extra hours to compensate for these breaks. Also, your wage should not be affected, and these breaks should not count as rest breaks (e.g., lunch break).
Nursing breaks also apply to women who work part-time.
Financial benefits during your maternity leave in Germany
Your salary should not be affected during your maternity leave in Germany. Your employer should pay out what is called a maternity protection wage (Mutterschutzlohn). The earliest you can submit your application is seven weeks before your due date.
The wage you will receive is as high as your average gross salary before the start of your pregnancy. If you receive a monthly salary, your wage will be calculated on the average of the last three months. If you get paid weekly, then it is calculated based on the past 13 weeks.
The money you receive during your maternity leave is a normal salary, so you still need to pay taxes and social contributions.
As an addition, you can also apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld) and child allowance (Kindergeld), which are government subsidies for young families.
When to inform your employer of pregnancy in Germany?
It is up to you to decide when to notify your employer of your pregnancy. Keep in mind that the first three months of pregnancy, your unborn child might be at risk.
A lot of Germans inform their employers after the first three months of pregnancy have passed by successfully.
Can you go on maternity leave during your probation period?
If you have a permanent contract, you may go on maternity leave during your probation period, and it does not get extended.
If you are not in Germany yet, and want kids, this is one more reason to consider Germany as your future home!