After the birth of your child, you are entitled to up to three years of parental leave (Elternzeit). This is unpaid time off from work. Your employer must release you from work for this period if you wish. During this time, however, you will not receive a salary. To compensate, you can apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld) for a limited time. Both mothers and fathers can take parental leave. You can also take parental leave at the same as a couple time, or just one of you at a time. The best thing to do is to contact your local parental allowance office (Elterngeldstelle) during your pregnancy and get advice on parental leave and parental allowance.

Your employment continues during parental leave. When your parental leave ends, you can usually return to your old job. Also, from the moment you apply for parental leave until it ends, you are better protected from termination than you would otherwise be. Protection against termination usually begins seven weeks before the start of parental leave.

In principle, each parent can take parental leave (Elternzeit) and organise their time off independently from the other parent. However, there are a few requirements that everyone must meet. You can take parental leave if you are employed, if you live with your own child in a shared household and if you look after and raise the child yourself. This is possible for those with full-time jobs as well as those with fixed-term contracts, part-time work or mini-jobs. You are also entitled to parental leave if you are undergoing training, retraining or further vocational training. However, a fixed-term employment relationship is not extended by parental leave. There is no parental leave for self-employed persons, students or participants in the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst). However, students with families have the option of takingup to six semesters off. Civil servants and soldiers can take special forms of parental leave.

You can take a total of three years of parental leave (Elternzeit). However, it is also possible to take less, i.e. only a few weeks or months. You are also allowed to divide your parental leave into three periods and choose when you take parental leave. Mothers are subject to slightly different time limits than fathers or partners who do not give birth to the child. That's because of the eight-week maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist) after giving birth. Mothers’ parental leave begin only begins when this period ends. The maternity leave period counts as used parental leave. It's best to check with your workplace as soon as you let them know you're pregnant. Find out who to contact for questions about parental leave. In larger companies, that's the human resources department. For smaller companies, this is the person who does the payroll. If an external office is responsible for this, you ask there.

It is important to know that you must make a binding commitment as to whether and when you want to take parental leave (Elternzeit) during the first two years after the birth of your child. So start thinking in advance about which division of time makes the most sense for you. You are also allowed to take parental leave when your child is between the ages of 3 and 8. The prerequisite for this, however, is that it is not for more than 24 months and that your job agrees. If you split the parental leave and want to take the third period after your child's third birthday, your employer can refuse parental leave.

You only have to register your parental leave (Elternzeit) in writing at your place of work. It's important that you sign the letter. Registration by telephone or e-mail is not possible. You should always be sure to get confirmation that you have properly registered for parental leave. Your superiors are obligated to confirm this. The confirmation should state the dates during which you want to take parental leave and when you registered it.

If a mother wants her parental leave (Elternzeit) to start immediately after the maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist), it is sufficient to register the parental leave after the birth. However, this must be done at least seven weeks before the end of the maternity leave period. In exceptional cases, shorter time limits may apply, for example in the case of premature birth or adoption. Then you should just register the parental leave with your job as early as possible. If a father wants to take parental leave immediately after the birth of the child, he must do so seven weeks before the expected date of birth and state this date in a letter to his superiors. When the child is born, he must prove the actual date of birth by means of the birth certificate. His superiors will then adjust the parental leave accordingly with the first month of the baby's life. If you want to take parental leave after your child's third birthday, you must give your employer at least 13 weeks' notice in writing.

Even though parental leave (Elternzeit) is time off from your job, you are allowed to work up to 30 hours per week. It's not the individual week that matters, but how many hours you work on average per month. Under certain conditions, you can apply to your employer for temporary part-time work during parental leave. This must be done in writing. After parental leave, you will have the same weekly working hours as before.