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 off work to rest 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 32 hours of paid work per week while you are receiving the allowance (you can receive the benefit even if you did not work before having a child).
- 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 300.000 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, including any income-replacement benefits like the child sickness benefit:
|Previous monthly income||Allowance (% of previous income)|
|Less than 1.000 euros||67 - 100%|
|1.000 euros to 1.200 euros||67%|
|1.200 euros to 1.240 euros||67 - 65%|
|More than 1.240 euros||65% (up to maximum of 2.770 euros)|
The minimum amount of parental allowance is 300 euros and the maximum amount is 1.800 euros monthly. You can use this calculator (in German) to work out how much parental benefit you will receive.
Families with two or more young children can receive a monthly bonus of 10%, or 75 euros, whichever is greater. You qualify for the bonus if you have at least one other child below the age of three, or at least two other children below the age of six, or at least one other child with a disability below the age of 14.
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. Single parents can also take advantage of these two extra months.
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).
If your child is born prematurely, you can receive up to four additional months of parental allowance.
Note that if you are receiving parental allowance, it will be deducted as income from any unemployment benefit II or supplementary child allowance payments you may be receiving.
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 32 hours per week in order to remain eligible for the parental allowance. It is also possible to combine the regular parental allowance with ElterngeldPlus, to suit your family situation.
If both parents work simultaneously for 24 - 32 hours per week for two to 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 24 - 32 hours per week for two to four months.
How to apply for parental allowance
You can apply for the parental allowance online via the ElterngeldDigital portal (in German) if you are resident of one of the following federal states:
- Lower Saxony
The digital application is slowly being rolled out across other federal states, but in the meantime you still need to 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, 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.