Financial benefits and support available to parents in Germany
Germany offers a lot of support for parents, including financial benefits. When I first moved to Germany, I had no idea about most of these benefits but learned about them along the way with a lot of panicked Google searches. We could have benefited more if we’d known about all the options from the start, so to help new arrivals or families who have been in Germany for a while, here is an overview of the benefits available.
Maternity protection (Mutterschutz)
The Mutterschutz (maternity protection) is a period that applies before and after the baby is born, during which the pregnant mother is not allowed to work. It usually begins six weeks before the due date and continues for eight weeks after the baby is born. It is adjusted as per the actual date of birth of the baby. This law protects mothers against discrimination and other workplace disputes, for instance being dismissed.
In order to benefit from maternity protection, you are required to provide your employer the expected delivery date as determined by your doctor. It is best to do so in writing.
Maternity benefits (Mutterschaftsgeld)
You are probably wondering what happens to your income if you aren’t legally allowed to work during your Mutterschutz period. The great thing is, your income is secure for this time too. If you are covered by statutory health insurance, you will receive financial benefits equal to your salary in the three months before you enter your Mutterschutz period.
This is known as Mutterschaftsgeld and is covered by your health insurance. The state’s provision is capped at 13 euros per day, and then your employer is obliged to pay the difference (if there is one). You are also entitled to benefits (as a one time payment) if you are unemployed.
Parental benefits (Elterngeld)
You are also entitled to receive parental benefits to compensate for your loss of income after the baby is born. This is valid for both parents, regardless of previous unemployment, and can be shared flexibly as the parents wish. It is a minimum of 300 euros and a maximum of 1.800 euros per month. The exact amount is calculated based on your salary before you start claiming the benefit.
You can receive Elterngeld even if you don’t take parental leave, but you are only allowed to work a maximum of 32 hours a week. There are several special conditions for other situations. For instance, if if you have twins, you get an extra 300 euros of Elterngeld per month.
The ElterngeldPlus initiative is a variation of Elterngeld, whereby you can extend the time period of parental benefits by receiving half the amount you are entitled to a month. This allows both parents to work part-time and share child-rearing responsibilities, for instance.
Partnership bonus (Partnerschaftsbonus)
If both parents claim the ElterngeldPlus, they can each receive up to four additional ElterngeldPlus months as a partnership bonus, so long as they both work between 24 and 32 hours per week during this period.
Child benefits (Kindergeld)
Parents get financial support for raising their children from the state, regardless of their employment status. This is given to all parents. Starting in 2023, parents are entitled to receive 250 euros per month for each child. This can be claimed until the child turns 18 years of age and in some circumstances until your child is 25. Processing a Kindergeld application can take a few months depending on the area you live in, so it is best to start the process as early as possible.
There are other benefits that are available to parents that are covered by your health insurance. This includes, for example, the costs for a midwife (Hebamme). A midwife can help you during pregnancy and after childbirth. As well as making sure you are recovering nicely, they can answer all your questions related to breastfeeding, baby care and your own health.
This is particularly helpful, because as first-time parents we are often full of doubts about how things should be, whether we are doing the best we can for our child, and how things work in the foreign country we are living in.
Postnatal recovery course (Rückbildungskurs)
A postnatal recovery course helps rebuild your pelvic floor after delivery. It is also a great opportunity to process your childbirth experience and speak with other mothers who might have gone through the same things as you.
The costs for a postnatal recovery course are usually covered by your insurance and your midwife will be able to help you find one close to you. My personal recommendation is to do the course without the baby so that you can concentrate fully on your own recovery.
There are a number of local hotlines and support groups that you can turn to in case of emergencies like postpartum depression, when your baby cries uncontrollably and other emergencies related to your child’s health. This is to make sure that both mother and baby can get all the help they need. In Germany, these include the Krisendienst and the Schreiambulanz, for example.