Elternzeit in Germany

Elternzeit (Parental leave) in Germany

Elternzeit is a very special time, and has a lot of magic moments! Being able to spend more time with your children is in my opinion priceless. However, having a baby in a foreign country can be pretty scary and maybe even overwhelming. Here you can find some very useful information about the parental leave in Germany, the so called Elternzeit.

Elternzeit in Germany is available to both parents

Elternzeit in Germany is available to both parents of a newborn biological or an adopted child. For biological children from the day they were born. For adopted children, you can take parental leave from the day on which the child joined your household, even if the adoption process is still ongoing (“adoptive care”).

Up to 3 years for each child per parent

The duration of the Elternzeit is up to 3 years for each child per parent! You do not have the right for parental leave from your child’s 8th birthday. But, before you are free to choose when your parental leave starts and finishes, take it all together or split it in two or three phases (if your employer agrees even more phases). And you can take Elternzeit for individual months, weeks or even days. However, from your child’s 3rd birthday, you can take a maximum of 24 months. This means you should take a year (those 12 months) before your child reaches 3 years old.


Mother takes parental leave the first 24 months of her child’s life. She returns to work when the child is 2 years old and she works one year. When the child is 3 years old she decides to take 12 months parental leave until the child is 4 years old.

Actually some parents take these12 months, or part of it, a bit later, when the child enters the Grundschule (Elementary school or Primary school), when they are around 6 years old. They do it to help the child adapting smoothly to the new type of school.

Your job position is protected

During parental leave, the employee is entitled to a reduced income or no income at all. But their job is protected and they have the right to return to the same position after the leave. The exception is only if in your contract is specified otherwise. In that case your employer may assign you to a different role or area of responsibility. However, your employer can’t do it if you would earn less as a result of this reassignment.

Your child’s age changes the Elternzeit registration rules

Registering for parental leave before your child reaches 3 years old and after that day has different rules. There are deadlines to register your parental leave and if you missed it, the start of your parental leave is automatically postponed. Without the need to submit another application with the correct dates.

In general, if you are registering parental leave for the time before your child reaches 3 years old you should do it 7 weeks before the date you want it to start. But, if you are registering to take Elternzeit after your child is 3 years old (and younger as 8 years old, because that is the age limit for parents to take Elternzeit), than you need to do it 13 weeks before your planned Elternzeit starting day.

For some exceptional cases, if it is not actually possible to know when you will need Elternzeit, as for example a premature birth or less predictable start for the adoptive care period. You should just notify your employer of your parental leave as soon as possible.

Right to take annual leave during your Elternzeit in Germany

If you are only taking part of the month, this means, if your Elternzeit doesn’t start on the first day of the month and doesn’t end on the last day of the month, your annual leave is not reduced.

If you take whole months then you will have a 1/12 (one twelfth) annual leave reduction for those months. This happens also if you start on the 2nd or 3rd because the day or days before you would not work anyways. Or if the days before you start were Saturdays, Sundays, Bank holidays or maternity leave days (the Mutterschutz period).

If you took more days than you are entitled to, your employer may reduce your annual leave the following year. And, despite your company’s annual leave policies, if you didn’t take yet those days you are entitled to receive, they don’t expire. Any annual leave not taken, to which you were entitled at the start of your parental leave, can be taken after your parental leave. Even if you have another child, and thus take additional parental leave. In those cases you still have the right to transport all that annual leave after your Elternzeit.


Let’s imagine this father is entitled to 30 days annual leave by contract. He takes Elternzeit from the 5th of January to the 17th of July.

Elternzeit in Germany example

The father is on Elternzeit for 5 full calendar months: February, March, April, May and June. But he is only taking parental leave for parts of January and July, for those two months he is entitled of getting the whole annual leave. For the 5 months he is taking Elternzeit from the beginning until the end he will have a reduction of 5/12 (five twelfth), this means he will get less 12,5 days annual leave, so he gets 17,5 days annual leave.

These are five facts about Parental leave in Germany, the so called Elternzeit. But there is much more to know and understand how to get the best of this period of your and your family’s life. Check my other posts and videos about the maternity leave (Mutterschutz) and the parental allowance (Elterngeld).

If you have further burning questions. And you think that I might be able to help you or give you some ideas on how to get the information you need, let me know on the comments.

Here the video:

Relevant information and references

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *