Maternity leave

Maternity leave in Germany

Mutterschaft (Maternity leave) in Germany

For an expat mother it might not be clear what people mean when they say “Mutterschutz”. In this post you will get the main information you need to know how the maternity leave in Germany works. The German “Muttershutz” (maternity protection) is under the “Mutterschuzgesetz” (mother’s protection law). It includes the maternity leave and the maternity benefit.

This blog post is based on the “Leitfaden zum Muttershutz” (Guidelines for maternity protection) created by the German ministry of Family, seniors, women and youth. You can download it, hear it being read to you or you can actually get this booklet version mailed for free to your address in Germany). Unfortunately right now there is only a German version of it. I hope they are planning or working on an English version.

What is the “Muttershutz” (Maternity leave in Germany)?

Mutterschutz is part of the the “Muttershutzgesetz” (mother’s protection law). It aims on protecting the health status of pregnant, recent delivery and nursing women. It also protects pregnant women against unjustified dismissal and secures income during the period when they are prohibited to work.

The Maternity Protection Act, or “Muttershutzgesetz” applies to all pregnant, have given birth or are breastfeeding women who are employed in Germany. Regardless of the nationality, marital status or gender specified in one’s birth certificate. You are therefore protected by law even if you do not feel like a woman and are still pregnant, have given birth or are breastfeeding.

There are some exceptions of women not employed who have also the right to Muttershutz. As for example women on professional training or internships.

How does the “Mutterschutz” protect women?

You are protected by the German Maternity Protection Act as soon as you are pregnant. You decide when you notify your employer of your pregnancy, but it is reccomended for you to tell your employer as soon as possible about your pregnancy. The earlier you inform your employer of your pregnancy, the better he can ensure effective maternity protection.

If your employer wants a medical certificate proving your pregnancy, you can ask your Ob/Gyn and the certificate has to be paid by your employer or the costs reimbursed to you. It usually costs between 5 and 10 EUR. Your employer is also not allowed to share any information about your pregnancy to third parties without your authorization.

During “Muttershutz” there are some rules concerning:

  • The allowed amount of time
  • Working until late
  • Working during weekends
  • How long should the break between shifts be
  • Paid working hours for medical appointments and nursing

Also the working conditions should make it easier for you to to reconcile your professional activity with your pregnancy and later nursing.

Since the beginning of the “Mutterschutz” until at least 4 months after birth, women who are pregnant, gave birth or are nursing have a special protection against being fired. However, there are very few exceptions that allow an employer to fire a woman during this period of time. For example, in the case of company’s relocation, with a complete or partial shutdown of the company, without the possibility of transferring the pregnant woman to another job inside that same company. Also serious breaches of duty by the specific woman can, in exceptional cases, lead to a justified contract termination.

“Schutzfristen” / Special protection period – before and after birth

I will just call the “Schutzfristen” the special protection period. It is actually a period of time during which women have extra protection, concerning work and financial support. It generally begins six weeks before birth and usually ends eight weeks after. In the case of a premature birth, multiple births or of a child with born with a disability, it is extended to twelve weeks after the birth.

Your employer may not demand you to work during the special protection period. If you wish, you can continue working during the special protection period before birth, however, you can also revoke your consent to continuing working at any time. The same doesn’t happen to the period after giving birth. After the actual delivery there is an absolute prohibition of employment. During this time, your employer may not give you any working task, even if you are willing to do so. The only exception to this rule is in the unfortunate case of a stillbirth.

Mutterschaftsgeld / Financial benefit

During the special protection period, you are entitled to the so-called “Muttershaftsgeld” (Maternity benefit). Women who are directly insured by a statutory health insurance receive the maternity protection benefit from their health insurance company, and the employer allowance directly from their employer.

Women with private health insurance or women with family statutory health insurance (for example women who are included in their husband’s statutory health insurance) receive a maternity allowance limited to a total of 210 EUR from the German Federal Insurance Office.

If you have an employment contract the most common situation is for you to be directly insured by a statutory health insurance. In that case, the total amount of financial benefit during this special protection period is calculated taking into account the last three calendar months net income before the start of the special protection period.

Your statutory health insurance covers 13 EUR per day, this is the actual “Muttershaftsgeld” or maternity protection benefit, and your employer is responsible for the employer allowance “Arbeitgebenzuschuss”, which is the difference between your average calendar-day wage and the 13 EUR received by the statutory health insurance.

“Mutterschaftsgeld” / Maternity benefit calculation example

In the last three months before the starting the special protection period a woman has a monthly net wage of 1000 EUR. The monthly net wage of the last three months (1000 EUR x 3 = 3000 EUR). This amount corresponds to 33,30 EUR per calendar day (considering a 30 days per month). The average daily net wage was therefore 33,30 EUR.

During the special protection period (before and after childbirth), This woman receives 33,30 euros per calendar day:

  • 13,00 EUR as maternity protection benefit from the health insurance company
  • 20,30 EUR as employer allowance from her employer

If you have further questions about the maternity leave in Germany please consult the “Leitfaden zum Muttershutz“, the guidelines booklet. But of course, if you have some comments and even further questions that I might be able to help answering or pointing in the right direction let me know!

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