The German social security system provides expectant and nursing mothers with maternity benefit to help make up for lost earnings. Maternity benefit (Mutterschaftsgeld) is received by most women taking a break from working with their statutory maternity leave (six weeks before and at least eight weeks after childbirth).
Whether you are eligible for maternity benefit, as well as the possible amount you would potentially receive, depends on the type and scope of the health insurance you have, and how much you earned before you went on maternity leave.
Requirements for maternity benefit
Maternity pay is intended to compensate working mothers for loss of earnings during their maternity period. Therefore, you only qualify if you will lose your salary during your maternity period (if you lose your job while on maternity leave, you also qualify). Additionally, in order to be eligible for maternity benefits, you must fulfil one of the following criteria:
- You are employed and covered by a statutory health insurance scheme.
- You are self-employed or a freelancer and a voluntary member of a statutory health insurance scheme who has opted for sickness benefit to be included in your cover.
- You are either employed or self-employed and have private health insurance.
How much maternity benefit will I receive?
The amount of maternity benefit you receive depends on what type of employment you are in, the type of health insurance cover you have, as well as your earnings in the three months before you went on maternity leave:
Maternity benefit from statutory health insurance
If you are covered by statutory health insurance you will receive maternity benefit based on your average earnings from employment in the last three months that you received full pay. The maximum amount you can receive is 13 euros per day. This is then “topped up” by your employer (see below).
Maternity benefit from Federal Insurance Office
If you are an employee but not a member of a statutory health insurance scheme (i.e. if you have private health insurance or are co-insured as a family member of another statutory health insurance policy holder), you may be entitled to receive maternity benefit from the Federal Insurance Office, up to 210 euros per month.
Employer’s maternity benefit top-up payment (Arbeitgeberzuschuss)
If your average take-home pay before you went on maternity leave exceeded 13 euros per day (or 390 euros per month), your employer is legally obliged to make up the difference. This is paid to you as a monthly “top-up” payment for the duration of your statutory maternity leave.
How to apply for maternity benefit
You can apply for maternity benefit seven weeks before your due date, at the earliest. You will need a certificate from your doctor confirming your expected delivery date (Bescheinigung über den mutmaßlichen Tag der Entbindung). You can present this to your statutory health insurance provider and fill out an application form. Once your application has been processed, you will receive a confirmation in the post.
If you are not covered by statutory health insurance you will need to submit an application to the maternity benefits section (Mutterschaftsgeldstelle) of the Federal Insurance Office in Bonn.
Parental allowance (Elterngeld)
To provide new parents with even more financial support, the German government also offers a parental allowance (Elterngeld) scheme that compensates mothers and fathers for their loss of earnings for up to 24 months.
Child benefits (Kindergeld)
Becoming a parent entitles you to several other benefits in Germany: as long as your child is dependent on you, you can receive financial support from the German government in the form of child benefits (Kindergeld). This includes tax-free allowances, supplementary allowances and maintenance payments for parents.