Parental Leave (Elternzeit) in Germany [2024 English Guide]

by | Family in Germany

Last Update: Feb 24, 2024 @ 1:54 am

Home 9 Family in Germany 9 Parental Leave (Elternzeit) in Germany [2024 English Guide]

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Parental leave in Germany is a very interesting way, for both mothers and fathers, to spend and use more time with their family and raise together with a new child.

🔶 Related Topic: Maternal Leave (Mutterschutz) in Germany

What is Parental Leave?

Parental leave (Elternzeit) is granted to employees as an unpaid leave from work where they can look after their babies and young children. This allows parents to spend additional period of time with their children during their early years. During this period, parents do not have to work. They can work if they want, but for limited hours only. This opportunity is not limited to mothers only. Fathers are also encouraged to apply for parental leave. In fact, more fathers are now applying for the leave in order to spend time with their children in the early years their life. Parents can go back to their previous job after the parental leave ends.

The best part about parental leave is that your job remains active throughout the period. In fact, sometimes people return to their same position they had left while going for leave.

🔶 Related Topic:  Kindergeld (Child Benefit) in Germany

Can I Go on Parental Leave?

Parental leave in Germany can be granted when you are:

  • Employed
  • And the child live together under one roof
  • Are responsible for looking after your child

You will be considered an employee when you are employed by:

  • Organization
  • Company
  • Government agency

Even if you are working part-time, have a mini-job or are currently, under vocational training, you are still entitled to parental leave. On the other hand, you cannot go for parental leave if you are:

Parental leave can be requested to look after your:

  • Biological child
  • Biological child of your partner
  • Adopted child
  • Foster child
  • Grandchildren – in exceptional cases, when child's parents are unable to take of him/her themselves.

Important: if the parents cannot look after the child in any case, any of the family members is eligible to apply for paternal leave.

Will I Get Paid During Parental Leave?

Employers do not pay salaries during the period of parental leave. Though parental leave is an unpaid leave from work, parents can get themselves registered for parental allowance (Elterngeld). The German federal government funds this program and pay over 1800 euros in terms of compensation to parents.

What Time and For What Duration I Can Take Parental Leave?

Both parents, mother and father, are allowed to have up to 36 months of parental leave per child.  For mothers on the other hand, this duration includes the six week long maternity leave which is legally prescribed. During this time, the mother has to stay home with her child.

The earliest parental leave can begin for fathers is the child-birth. For mothers, they can start theirs once the afterbirth maternity leave has ended. It is not essential for both parents to take parental leave. Only one of them can also take it as per their preference.

Split Parental Leave

The leave period of 36 months can be divided into multiple instances. For both parents, they have to avail at least a part of their parental leave before child’s 3rd birthday. If the parents decide not to avail all the tenure before 3rd birthday of child, they can utilize the remaining leave till child’s 8th birthday.

Where and How to Apply for Parental Leave?

For taking a parental leave in Germany, it has to be registered with the employer in writing. It won’t get authorized if registered via call or email. There is no form which applicants have to fill out. But sample letter can be found on which you can customize as per your liking. Please ensure that letter contains the beginning and ending date of the parental leave.

It is suggested to request for confirmation in writing for your application so that there are no discrepancies or problems in future.

Important: When applying for parental leave before your child’s 3rd birthday, the division of parental leave has to declared for next 2 years. The period or binding period is known as Bindungszeitraum. After the declaration of leave plan, changes can be done only on employer’s consent.

When to Register for Parental Leave?

Following rules will apply if the child is born after 1st July 2015 if:

  • Applying for parental before the 3rd birthday of child, employer must be informed at least 7 weeks in advance.
  • Applying for parental leave between third and eighth birthday of child, then employer must be notified at least 13 weeks before.

However, if the child is born after 1st July 2015, it is mandatory to notify the employer at least 7 weeks before, irrespective of dates for which parental leave is planned.

Can I Work While Having Parental Leave?

Part-time work is allowed during parental leave in Germany. An average of 32 hours is allowed per week. Parents having part-time job before the birth of their child can continue with their work. They can also request their employer to reduce the working hours.

For parents having full-time jobs, they can request their employer to allow them to work part-time. If in any case, the employer doesn’t agree, permission can be requested to work part-time for another company.

Once the parental leave ends, the working hours will go back to the original count. As per German law, part-time employment can always be asked for if the employee is working at a company for more than half a year and the company has more than 15 employees.

Can I Be Fired While on Parental Leave?

During the period of parental leave, employees are secure against dismissal. German law provides legal protection against dismissal 8 weeks before the parental leave begins. But this works when parental leave is already applied and registered. From here till the completion of parental leave, employee cannot be fired. For those who avail parental leave in multiple instances, they can also be not dismissed between any of this duration.

There are some occurrences where protection against dismissal might not be that much effective. These includes:

  • Insolvency of company
  • Violation of contract by employee

In the above-mentioned cases, termination is not count valid until Occupational Health and Safety Inspectorate (Aufsichtbehörde) approves it. What’s interesting is that even if Aufsichtbehörde approves the termination, there is still a chance to file a case against that. Employee have to submit the case maximum by three weeks after termination is received.

Can I Quit During Parental Leave?

Sure, it is possible. Though, it is mandatory to serve the notice period which is stated in the employment contract.

Can I Return to Same Designation After Parental Leave?

Principally, employees are able to go back to their previous job once the parental leave is finished. In case the same position is not possible or not available, employers are bound to offer a similar and equivalent position. This ensures that employee shouldn’t be earning less than before.

After the parental leave, parents may want to look for new options and reorient themselves on professional scale. In such case, employees can send notice to their current employer. But its better to have a conversation with employer before making such decision. It would be unfair not to discuss with him/her since they have been counting on return of their employee.

What Happens to Annual Leave During Parental Leave?

If parents of the child are not working during parental leave, the annual leave will get deducted by 1/12 every month of parental leave. If a year has been availed as parental leave, then an entire of annual leave has been lost. On the other hand, if employee took vacation days before the start of parental leave, they can utilize the remaining annual leave days as it won’t get affected.

However, if the parents are working part-time during the parental leave, the annual leave will not be deducted. But in this scenario, any remainder of the annual leave days that is not availed during parental leave will be lost.


Parental leave is a great chance of spending time with the children for both parents. Parents have complete freedom of choosing the time period for which they wish to remain on parental leave. The maximum duration is three years. The parental leave can be split as well however the parents like, after agreeing with their employer. Please note that parental leave is an unpaid leave from work. For those who wish to avail financial help, they should apply for parental allowance.

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