If you or your partner has recently had a child, you may be eligible to receive parental allowance (Elterngeld). This benefit, funded by the German social security system, is given to all new parents to cushion the loss of earnings caused by the birth of a child.
To encourage both parents to spend time with their new baby, the German federal government has adopted a Scandinavian-style policy whereby the entitlement to parental allowance can be shared between the child’s parents. The benefit therefore enables both you and your partner to take time work to spend time with your new child.
Requirements for parental allowance
To be eligible for parental allowance, you need to fulfil the following criteria:
- You look after your child from birth yourself.
- You do no more than 30 hours’ paid work per week while you are receiving the allowance.
- You live together with your child in the same house.
- You are a German/EU/EEA citizen, or you hold a permanent residence permit, or a residence permit that entitles you to work in Germany.
- You and your partner’s combined annual income does not exceed 500.000 euros (or 250.000 euros for single parents).
You can also claim parental allowance if you look after a child immediately from birth, even if it is not your own, and if you adopt a child (up to eight years old).
How much parental allowance will I receive?
The parental allowance is intended to replace the income you received before your child’s birth. The amount you receive is therefore based on your income over the 12 months immediately before the baby was born:
|Previous monthly income||Allowance (% of previous income)|
|Less than 1.000 euros||67-100%|
|1.000 euros to 1.220 euros||67%|
|1.220 euros to 1.240 euros||67-65%|
|More than 1.240 euros||65%|
The minimum amount of parental allowance is 300 euros and the maximum amount is 1.800 euros monthly.
Families with two or more children can receive a monthly bonus of 10%, or 75 euros, whichever is greater. For multiple births (i.e. if you have twins or triplets), parental allowance increases by 300 euros each month for each additional child.
You can claim parental allowance for at least two and a maximum of 12 months. If both parents are claiming parental allowance, an additional two months of benefit payments is granted.
Parents who are sharing parental allowance can receive benefits one after the other or both at the same time, up to a shared total of 14 months (i.e. if you and your partner both claim parental allowance for a period of seven months, you will use up your 14-month allowance).
Parental allowance plus (ElterngeldPlus)
Since 2015, parents who wish to return to work sooner can also opt for a scheme called ElterngeldPlus. This enables any parent eligible for parental allowance to spread the benefit payments over a longer period of time, by receiving half of the regular parental allowance over a maximum period of 24 months.
During this time, you are only entitled to work a maximum of 30 hours per week in order to remain eligible for the parental allowance. It is also possible to combine regular parental allowance with ElterngeldPlus, to suit your family situation.
If both parents work simultaneously for 25-30 hours per week for four consecutive months, each parent will receive four additional months of ElterngeldPlus payments. You can still apply for this bonus if you and your partner live separately. Single parents can also claim the bonus by working for 25-30 hours per week for four months.
How to apply for parental allowance
You can apply for the parental allowance by submitting an application to your local parental allowance office (Elterngeldstelle). You will need to fill out an application form (which can usually be downloaded in advance from your local office’s website), and also bring along the following documents:
- Your child’s birth certificate
- Valid identification such as an identity card or a passport (not a driving licence)
- Proof of income, such as an employment contract or statements from your bank account
- Details of maternity benefit (if applicable)
Once you have submitted your application and have had your documents checked, it usually takes around four weeks to process your application and receive a written decision in the post.