Kinderkrankengeld: How parents in Germany can take paid time off to care for kids
For many families in Germany, the new year will begin just as the old one left off: with home-schooling. The federal and state governments have agreed that schools and childcare centres should remain closed until at least the end of January, while parents will be given more child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld) to compensate.
Initially, however, this announcement caused quite a bit of confusion - what exactly is Kinderkrankengeld? Who is eligible for it, and how do you apply for it if your child isn’t even sick? The federal government has now ironed a few of these questions out with a draft bill. Here’s an explanation.
Germany's child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld)
In normal times, the child sickness benefit is a benefit that parents covered by statutory health insurance are entitled to claim if they have to take time off work to care for their sick child, and their employer doesn’t pay their salary.
Normally, the parent needs a certificate from the doctor stating that their child is sick and needs care at home, and that the parent therefore cannot go to work (i.e. that there is no other person who can take care of the child). This certificate is then submitted to the health insurer, who pays out the benefit.
Child sickness benefit & School closures
Now, however, the government wants to provide more support to parents struggling to balance home working and schooling, so long as schools remain closed due to COVID-19. According to Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, the federal government wants to enable “parents to look after their children at home easily and without financial losses.”
They have therefore determined that Kinderkrankengeld should also be made available when schools or daycare centres are closed, if compulsory attendance has been lifted, or if access to daycare has been restricted (and parents are officially advised not to send their children to school).
Parents can also apply for the child sickness benefit if they have been working from home. But they are still only eligible if they have to take time off to care for their child and therefore stop receiving their regular wages. Again, there must be no other person in the household who could look after the child.
Once passed, the new regulation will apply retrospectively from January 5. The Federal Council is due to give its approval at a special session on Monday, January 18.
Who is entitled?
Parents are eligible so long as they are insured under the public health insurance system and are entitled to sickness benefit themselves. Their child must be under 12 years of age - although an exception is made for children with disabilities. The child must also be legally insured under the public system as a dependant. You are not eligible if your child is privately insured.
How many child sick days can parents claim?
The federal government has decided to increase parents’ entitlement to the child sickness benefit by 10 days per parent and child in 2021. Each parent is therefore entitled to claim up to 20 days per child this year. For single parents, the entitlement per child doubles from 20 to 40 days.
Parents or single parents with two children are entitled to a maximum of 80 days of the child sickness benefit. If they have additional children, the entitlement increases by 10 days to a maximum of 90 days in 2021 - regardless of how many children live in the household.
How do I apply for the child sickness benefit if my child’s school is closed?
The government’s official guidelines state that, if your child’s school or daycare centre is closed, or even if compulsory attendance has been lifted, you do not need to get a certificate from your doctor to claim the child sickness benefit. Instead, a certificate from the respective institution should be sufficient.
Otherwise, the procedure is the same, you need to apply to your health insurance company and provide “suitable evidence” that your child’s school is closed, or that they are not attending. The health insurance company may require an official letter or certificate from the school.
For more information on how much child sickness benefit you can expect to receive, see our guide to Kinderkrankengeld.