Elterngeld / Parental Allowance in Germany
Updated - June 2016
Germany has a long tradition of creating and maintaining strong social programs. Even given its exceptional social commitment throughout its history, Germany currently has an extremely low birth rate (1.3 births per women). This fact keeps the "family debates" alive and well in the Bundestag (Lower House of German Parliament), which leaves politicians constantly scrambling to find ways to promote larger families and a closer balanced birth/mortality ratio. Germany's ideal birthrate would be 2.1 births per German woman, which would maintain a healthy population level, albeit, without any further immigration, (which seems to be very unlikely).
Elterngeld is funded by the federal tax system and replaced, on January 01, 2007, the pre-existing Erzeihungsgeld or Parenting Allowance. This is not a permanent subsidy while it is limited to the first 12 or 14 months following the child's birth. The amount of the Elterngeld is based on the after taxes income of the parent dedicated to caring for the newborn and is to be viewed as a limited income subsidy. The Germans have adopted a clause based on the Scandinavian system - which allows for both parents to exercise their right to time off with their new born and to receive Elterngeld, too - by sharing the allocated "Elterngeld time" (12-14 months total).
Who Can Get Elterngeld?
- Employed, self-employed and bureaucrats
- Unemployed parents
- Students and apprentices
- Parents of adoptive children
To contract for Elterngeld, you need to apply in writing. To find the government office responsible for your application in your Bundesland (state) go to this link: http://www.bmfsfj.de/BMFSFJ/Service/themen-lotse,did=88966.html
The website is in German, but don't worry. All you have to do is click on one of the listed Bundeslaender and the first address that comes up is where you need to apply. The second address is for applicant's complaints.
Elterngeld can only be retroactively implemented 3 months from the date the application is turned in. So, if you just had a baby, hurry up!
Eligibility for Elterngeld
You should be eligible for Elterngeld if you fulfill the following criteria:
- Have a residence in Germany or an Aufenthaltstitel (residence permit) that allows you to work in Germany
- You and your child reside together
- You care and rear your child personally
- You do not work more than 30 hours per week during the time Elterngeld is issued
How Much Is It?
- The Elterngeld amount is 67% of the applying parent's after tax earnings, averaged over 12 months before the child's birth
- Maximum amount monthly is 1,800 EURO
- Minimum amount issued to eligible applicants is 300 EURO (even for unemployed parents)
- For each multiple birth, 300 EURO per child issued.
As generous as all this sounds, there are still a few factors of which need to be aware. Any income earned during the Elternzeit will most likely be calculated against your Elterngeld and will therefore lower your Elterngeld payment. The same applies for Mutterschaftsgeld, or any social support received by the Federal or Bundesland authorities. Contact the proper authorities for more details.
For families that already have children an additional 10% of the Elterngeld is paid or a minimum amount of 75 EURO monthly as a "sibling bonus". The requirements for multi-child families are:
- For 2 children, they have to be under 4 years of age
- For 3 children, they have to be under 7 years of age.
How Long is Elterngeld Paid?
Single parents that qualify will receive a total of 14 months of Elterngeld. For parents jointly rearing their newborn, they can receive 12 months of Elterngeld for the designated partner caring for the child and can receive an additional 2 months of Elterngeld for the other partner, but only when they reduce their hours of work to less than 30 per week. Partners that want to split the Elterngeld as they wish may do so, but only 12 months will be paid. It is also possible to reduce the Elterngeld by 50% and have it paid over twice the amount of time outlined above.
ElterngeldPlus – Partnership Bonus and More Flexibility
The Elterngeld program was enhanced in 2015 with the introduction of ElterngeldPlus. For parents of children born from July 1, 2015 on, there is a variety of flexible leave times that can involve both parents.
The amount of time that can be taken off can be extended up to double the time offered in the regular Elterngeld program. According to a brochure available from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth:
"The ElterngeldPlus makes it easier for mothers and fathers to combine a parental allowance and part-time work. Parents who work part-time after the birth of their children can now extend the entitlement period: one Elterngeld month becomes two ElterngeldPlus months. Here the ElterngeldPlus, like the previous Elterngeld, replaces the loss in income by 65 to 100 percent. The sum of the ElterngeldPlus lies at maximum half of the monthly Elterngeld sum to which parents without part-time income would be entitled. In this way, mothers and fathers can also remain more flexible over and above the 14th month after the birth of their child in order to combine the needs of the child with the requirements of their jobs. A multiple bonus for children, parents and the job."
Additionally, ElterngeldPlus makes it possible for parents to take some leave between a child's third and eighth birthdays and to divide the leave time into three phases per parent.
The program is also beneficial for the self-employed by allowing them to work up to 30 hours a week while collecting the benefit over a longer period of time.
It's possible to choose either the Elterngeld or ElterngeldPlus or even to combine them both. Each parent can apply for either program individually.
There are a lot of moving parts in both programs involving amount of hours worked; amount of time off desired by both parents; amount and length of the payments; coordinating the leave times with the employer and other factors.