The German social security system provides expectant and nursing mothers with maternity benefit to help make up for lost earnings. Maternity benefit (Mutterschaftsgeld) is received by most women taking a break from working with their statutory maternity leave (six weeks before and at least eight weeks after childbirth).
Whether you are eligible for maternity benefit, as well as the amount you would potentially receive, depends on the type and scope of the health insurance you have, and how much you earned before you went on maternity leave.
Requirements for maternity benefit
Maternity pay is intended to compensate working mothers for loss of earnings during their maternity period. Therefore, you only qualify if you will lose your salary during your maternity period (if you lose your job while on maternity leave, you also qualify). Additionally, in order to be eligible for maternity benefits, you must fulfil one of the following criteria:
- You are employed and covered by a statutory health insurance scheme.
- You are self-employed or a freelancer and a voluntary member of a statutory health insurance scheme who has opted for sickness benefit to be included in your cover.
- You are either employed or self-employed and have private health insurance.
How much maternity benefit will I receive?
The amount of maternity benefit you receive depends on what type of employment you are in, the type of health insurance cover you have, as well as your earnings in the three months before you went on maternity leave:
Maternity benefit from statutory health insurance
If you are employed and covered by statutory health insurance you will receive maternity benefit based on your average earnings from employment in the last three months that you received full pay. The maximum amount you can receive is 13 euros per day. This is then “topped up” by your employer (see below).
If you are self-employed and voluntarily insured with a statutory health insurance company with an entitlement to sickness benefit, you will receive a maternity benefit that is equal to the sickness benefit during your statutory maternity leave.
Sickness allowance from private health insurance
If you are privately-insured and you have taken out a daily sickness allowance insurance (Krankentagegeldversicherung), you might be entitled to receive a daily sickness allowance for the duration of your maternity leave, which replaces the maternity benefit from the statutory health insurance companies. If you are not entitled to this allowance, you may be able to apply for the maternity benefit from the Federal Social Security Office (see below).
Maternity benefit from Federal Social Security Office
If you are an employee but not a member of a statutory health insurance scheme (i.e. if you have private health insurance or are co-insured as a family member of another statutory health insurance policy holder), you may be entitled to receive maternity benefit from the Federal Social Security Office, in a lump sum of up to 210 euros. This is topped up by your employer, if you have one.
Employer’s maternity benefit top-up payment (Arbeitgeberzuschuss)
If your average take-home pay before you went on maternity leave exceeded 13 euros per day (or 390 euros per month), your employer is legally obliged to make up the difference between these these maternity benefits (whichever you are entitled to), and your normal wage. This is paid to you as a monthly “top-up” payment for the duration of your statutory maternity leave.
Your employer can then have their contribution to the maternity benefit allowance reimbursed by your health insurance company, as well as the employer's contributions to statutory health insurance, pension insurance, and unemployment insurance.
How to apply for maternity benefit
You can apply for maternity benefit seven weeks before your due date, at the earliest. You will need a certificate from your doctor confirming your expected delivery date (Bescheinigung über den mutmaßlichen Tag der Entbindung). You can present this to your statutory health insurance provider and fill out an application form. Once your application has been processed, you will receive a confirmation in the post.
If you are not covered by statutory health insurance you will need to submit an application to the maternity benefits section (Mutterschaftsgeldstelle) of the Federal Social Security Office in Bonn.
Parental allowance (Elterngeld)
To provide new parents with even more financial support, the German government also offers a parental allowance (Elterngeld) scheme that compensates mothers and fathers for their loss of earnings for up to 24 months.
Child benefits (Kindergeld)
Becoming a parent entitles you to several other benefits in Germany: as long as your child is dependent on you, you can receive financial support from the German government in the form of child benefits (Kindergeld). This includes tax-free allowances, supplementary allowances and maintenance payments for parents.