There are various situations in which people are not allowed to work during pregnancy or after childbirth, or not to the same extent as before pregnancy. The is because of certain working conditions that are not compatible with the welfare of pregnancy and childbirth and therefore lead to employment restrictions (Beschäftigungsverbot). These restrictions are regulated by law and are intended to protect you and your child. In addition, there is the sick leave approved by doctors. The type of restriction or sick leave depends on the situation. All pregnant people are subject to employment restrictions during the maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist) in the six weeks before the birth and the eight weeks after. However, during the maternity leave period before childbirth, the prohibition against working is not absolute. If you want, you can still work during that time. After birth, on the other hand, working is not allowed no matter what. If your child was born ill or before the 37th week of pregnancy, then the employment restrictions after birth are extended to twelve weeks.
Your employer is legally obliged to carry out a general risk assessment for all workplaces in the company. Such assessments must also take into account the possibility that an employee could be pregnant or breastfeeding. Further information on risk assessment is available from the DGUV - which in English stands for the ‘German statutory accident insurance’ - as well as from the labour inspectorate of the respective federal state. Once you have informed your employer of your pregnancy, they must carry out a risk assessment of your workplace for you personally. It should show whether there are any health risks at your workplace for you and your child during and after pregnancy, and if so, what they are. If there is a risk, the working conditions must be changed or your superiors must offer you another, harmless workplace. If they can't do that, they'll have to let you off work altogether.
There is a general employment restriction (Beschäftigungsverbot) for pregnant people in workplaces with heavy physical work. The same applies if you are exposed to hazardous substances, heat, cold, wetness, noise or radiation at your workplace. Your employer must then try to offer you another job where you are not at risk. If this is not possible, they must issue a what is known as a ‘company employment restriction’ for you and notify the supervisory authority. There are similar general workplace employment restrictions for breastfeeding people.
There may also be risks that are not covered by general employment restrictions of maternity or occupational health and safety. Then your doctor must decide whether an individual medical restriction or restriction on employment is necessary for you. If you feel unwell and have the impression that your symptoms are related to the workplace, an individual restriction or ban on employment can be imposed. Whether this is the case must be determined by a doctor. The doctor’s certificate may contain a full ban on employment. However, the restriction may also be provisional or limited in time or relate only to certain tasks. If your employer has not drawn up a risk assessment for your workplace or has not given you any information about what the risk assessment looks like, a temporary restriction on employment automatically applies. It is valid until your employer has fulfilled all the conditions required by law.
Doctors can also issue an individual medical restriction or ban on employment (Beschäftigungsverbot) if there is a medical risk to your pregnancy or your child. The reason for this can be, for example, that complications have occurred or that a premature or multiple birth is expected. Employment restrictions can be issued by all doctors. It doesn't have to be from a gynaecologist. However, a midwife cannot issue the certificate. You must present the certificate at your place of work. An individual medical restriction on employment is also possible after the birth. For example, if you are called upon to do work that exceeds your capacity and you are not yet fully recovered.
The general and individual employment restrictions (Beschäftigungsverbot) of occupational health and safety and maternity protection are intended to prevent a possible risk to mother and child and are always related to workplace situations. So the issue here is how the workplace and workload affect the development of pregnancy and parenthood. This is to be distinguished from symptoms that lead to a medical diagnosis and a determination of incapacity for work. This is always the case if your doctor diagnoses you with an illness that is not caused by the pregnancy and if the illness means that you are no longer able to carry out your work. In this case, your salary will continue to be paid as normal during the first six weeks of illness. After that, your health insurance must give you sick pay (Krankengeld).