Maternity leave offers a special protection for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is ensured by legal regulations, which are regulated in the Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz). The law ensures that employers comply with maternity leave periods (Mutterschutzfristen) and observe certain employment restrictions. It stipulates that you get maternity benefits (Mutterschaftsleistungen) to replace your income. The law also deals with workplace health protections. That's why you should let your workplace know that you're pregnant in a timely manner. Only then can your manager ensure that your work does not pose a risk to you or your pregnancy.

The maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist) begins six weeks before your expected due date and normally ends eight weeks after you’ve given birth. Therefore, the total maternity leave period is 14 weeks. You are not supposed to work during this time. Although you may continue to work before the birth if you wish. But there's no way you can do so after you give birth. Then an absolute employment ban (Beschäftigungsverbot) applies. Even if your baby is born before the expected date, the entire maternity leave period lasts 14 weeks. In this case, it would not end eight weeks after birth, but a few days later. The number of days that your baby was born early are simply added to the eight weeks from birth.

There are situations that can cause the maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist) to be extended. For example, if your baby is medically considered premature or if you gave birth to twins or multiples. In such cases, another four weeks are added to the usual maternity leave period after the birth. This would then give you a total of 18 weeks maternity leave. If your baby was born with a disability, you can apply for a maternity leave period extension through your health insurance. You must do this within eight weeks of giving birth. If you experience a stillbirth, you also have maternity leave for at least eight weeks after the birth. The period may be extended depending on the date of birth.

Starting from the beginning of your pregnancy until four months after giving birth, you may not be terminated from your job. This also applies in cases of miscarriage after the twelfth week of pregnancy. However, there are exceptions to the protection against termination, for example if your company is bankrupt. You can also be terminated if you work for a small business that cannot continue without you and cannot find an equivalent pregnancy substitute for you. However, your company needs the approval of the relevant supervisory authority for a termination under these circumstances to be successful. Otherwise such a termination is invalid.

Even before your pregnancy, your employer must have checked whether there are any hazards for pregnant or breastfeeding people in the workplace. This always applies if more than three women are permanently employed at your place of work. Once you have told your managers about your pregnancy, they need to talk to you about what adjustments must be made at work to ensure your health and safety. This is so you can continue to work safely as a pregnant woman or take easily breastfeeding breaks afterwards. Before and after giving birth, you are not allowed to do certain jobs at all. For example, things like stressful or dangerous activities involving toxic chemicals or working on an assembly line are prohibited. You may be prohibited from certain activities during this time for your protection. You must be given the opportunity, however, to take on another reasonable task in the company.

Depending on the nature of your job, your working hours may also need to be rearranged. While pregnant or breastfeeding, you do not have to work between 8pm and 6am or on Sundays and public holidays. If your managers still want you to work between 8pm and 10pm, they don't just need your consent. Your company must also apply to the regulatory authority and get your working hours approved. To do so, your managers need confirmation from your doctor that there are no objections to these working hours. On top of that, they have to give you time off so you can go to necessary check-ups if the appointments can't be scheduled any other way.