There seem to be parental benefits coming out of your ears when you’re a parent in Germany. It’s just a bit of a nightmare figuring out what they all mean and whether you have access. We’ll take you through it.
But first, a glossary
Mutterschaftsgeld – “maternity benefit”. Designed to protect mothers in the weeks leading up to and after the birth.
Elterngeld – “parental benefit”. Designed to support parents financially for up to 14 months (or longer in some cases) after the birth while they care for their child.
Kindergeld – “child allowance”. Designed to support children financially with receiving their basic needs, at least until their 18th birthday and until they finish formal education.
Mutterschaftsgeld (maternity benefit)
This lump-sum payment is designed to last you through the Mutterschutzfrist period – the maternity protection period. It’s usually 6 weeks before the birth of your baby/babies until 8 weeks afterward, so 14 weeks altogether. This period of time can vary though, for example if you have a premature baby or your doctor gives you instructions not to work sooner during your pregnancy.
There are many factors that influence whether you are eligible for Mutterschaftsgeld, how much you will receive, and to which office you should apply for it.
In many cases, you’ll receive up to 13 Euros per day (net and tax-free) at most for the entire period. Your public health insurer pays. If you are employed and your salary exceeds this, your employer makes up the difference with something called an Arbeitgeberzuschuss (employee supplement).
If you are publicly insured, another benefit is that you remain insured against unemployment, health and pension at no cost to you while you are in the Mutterschutzfrist period.
Not everyone is on a salary and not everyone has a public health insurer, so there are other ways you can access Mutterschaftsgeld as well, e.g. through the Bundesamtsozialesicherung if you are a privately insured employee or familienversichert (publicly insured through a family member), or possibly via your private health insurance provider if you are self-employed.
Elterngeld is designed to support parents financially for up to 14 months (or longer in some cases) after the birth while they care for their child. While you can complete the application forms and get everything ready before the birth, you can’t actually submit the application until after your child is born. It’s based on your income prior to birth. If you are receiving Mutterschaftsgeld, you won’t get Elterngeld at the same time unless the Mutterschaftsgeld falls below the Elterngeld amount to which you are entitled, in which case, Elterngeld kicks in and covers the difference.
Elterngeld is usually 67% of your net income, but there are cases in which it can be less. If you choose the basic parental allowance, the maximum amount you can receive is 1800 Euros per month, and the minimum is 300 Euros per month.
Your local Department of Youth Services (Jugendamt) is responsible for your application. Deciding how to use Elterngeld, which variation to choose and how to share it with the other parent is complex. Take some time to make this decision and create some scenarios to see how you can best use your time and money.
This ongoing monthly payment per child is designed to support families financially with providing their children with basic needs, at least until their 18th birthday and until they finish formal education.
Your first child and second child get 219 Euros per month each.
Your third child gets 225 Euros per month.
Your fourth and any further children get 250 Euros per month each.
You apply with your local Familienkasse, which is part of the Federal Labour Agency. You can apply for Kindergeld on the Federal Labour Agency’s website, regardless of where in Germany you live.
Red Tape Translation can talk you through all of this online. Book a Baby Bureaucracy coaching and speak to Kathleen, who has done it all twice and helped plenty of families get it all done.