New parental leave and parental allowance regulations in Germany now in force for newborns

Written on 8 Sep 2015

Parents of children born on or after 1 July 2015 can now take advantage of the new parental leave and parental allowance regulations in Germany, which were introduced at the beginning of the year and which create greater flexibility for how employees take parental leave. 

The maximum total parental leave per child continues to be three years; that leave must be taken before the child reaches their eighth birthday. The significant change is that these years can now be taken in up to three blocks instead of two blocks; the rules around timing of taking the leave have also changed. 

Prior to the changes in the regulations, employees could take a maximum of 12 months of parental leave in the period between the child’s third birthday and before the child reaches their eighth birthday. This meant that the rest of the leave (i.e. the other 24 months) had to be taken between the child’s birth and their third birthday. 

Since the changes, employees can take the parental leave in three blocks and up to 24 months can be taken in the period between the child’s third birthday and before the child reaches their eighth birthday. This gives the employees more flexibility, for example, to only take 12 months’ parental leave in the period between the child being born and its third birthday and to use the remaining 24 months in two blocks between the child’s second birthday and before the child reaches their eighth birthday.

For children born prior to 1 July 2015

Birth to third birthday Up to 24 months
Third birthday to eighth birthday Maximum of 12 months

For children born on or after 1 July 2015

Birth to third birthday 12 months
Third birthday to eighth birthday 12 months + 12 months

N.B: this is just one example of how leave can be taken following the changes and it would be open to employees to choose a variation of this pattern. 

Permission of employer to take time off

The employer’s consent is generally not necessary for making use of any of the parental leave. Employers can only reject the request for urgent operational reasons. German case law has shown this will be narrowly interpreted and will rarely apply. However, employees still need to give notice when they intend to take parental leave: Seven weeks before the beginning of parental leave that is taken within the first three years of the child’s life and 13 weeks’ notice for leave taken between the third and the eighth birthday.

Move towards part-time working 

The new parental leave regulations also encourage parents back to the office in part-time work sooner by making use of allowances which are paid by the federal government more flexible: with the new “parental allowance plus”, parents can stretch these allowance entitlements. Previously, one complete month of parental allowance entitlement was used up even when only receiving a small portion of the parental allowance due to the part-time salary being credited. The new “allowance plus” option can be stretched for up to 28 months (instead of the previous maximum of 14 months with the old allowance) for part-time employees. 

Partnership bonus

In addition to the new parental allowance, employees may also be encouraged to try out part-time working hours because of a partnership bonus will be available where their child was born on or after 1 July 2015. This partnership bonus (“Partnerschaftsbonus”), which contains four additional months of the new parental allowance per parent, will be granted to parents who take care of their child together and who both work between 25 and 30 hours per week. The cost of the partnership bonus is funded by the federal government rather than the employer.

What you should know

  • Application deadlines: notice for parental leave taken within the first three years after birth must be given seven weeks in advance of when the leave will start; notice for parental leave taken after the first two years must be given 13 weeks in advance of when the leave will start.
  • Employers will rarely be legally able to reject parental leave requests.
  • Parents may return to part-time work sooner due to new financial benefits from the federal government.
  • Trend for fathers to take parental leave will continue.
  • Termination protection: as before, employees in parental leave enjoy special termination protection.
  • Parental leave is in addition to an employee’s right to maternity leave which must be taken during the six weeks prior to the expected date of birth and for eight weeks immediately after the birth.