Parental benefits in Germany

Elterngeld 101 – What It Is and How to Get It

Von Lisa H &

Zuletzt aktualisiert am 14 May 2024

Two of the main benefits parents are entitled to in Germany are Elternzeit (parental leave) and Elterngeld (parental allowance). It’s a fairly complex topic but we’ll break both of these benefits down for you and tell you everything you need to know.

In this article we will talk about 💸 Elterngeld – literally parent money.

We cover Elternzeit (parental leave) in this article.

This article was written in collaboration with Elodie Roux Heineck, who is the founder of Baby in Berlin, offering expert help with German baby paperwork for international families. 

Update: In December 2023, the German government passed a new regulation for births from 1 April, 2024. The changes are as follows:

  • From 1 April, 2024, single parents and couples with a taxable income of over €200,000 and single parents with a taxable income of over €150,000 will not be eligible for Elterngeld.

  • From 1 April, 2025, couples with a taxable income of over €175,000 will not be eligible for Elterngeld. For single parents, the threshold will remain at €150,000.

  • Couples with 1 baby can still receive up to 14 months of Elterngeld, however only 1 month can be taken jointly (rather than 2 months as is currently the case) and this needs to be within the baby's first year of life. There won't be any changes for parents of multiples or those claiming Elterngeld Plus or the Partnerschafts Bonus.

If you'd like to re-watch the Instagram Live Elodie and I recorded at the end of December 2023 about these changes to Elterngeld, you can find it here. In addition to the above mentioned details, we talk about what this change means for families, how to calculate your taxable income and answer a few questions from our followers.

Elternzeit vs. Elterngeld – what’s the difference?

First off, Elternzeit and Elterngeld are two different things. Elternzeit refers to the parental leave (time off) while Elterngeld is the parental allowance (money) you receive. Here’s our article on Elternzeit.

You don’t have to take Elternzeit to receive Elterngeld. Confusing? Yes, totally! In reality, most employees DO take Elternzeit so that they can reduce their hours, which is a requirement for receiving Elterngeld.

So, what are the exact requirements for Elterngeld?

You need to fulfill some requirements to receive Elterngeld:

  • You care for and raise your child yourself.

  • You live with your child in a shared household.

  • You are either not employed at all or you work no more than 32 hours per week. (This you can request via Elternzeit)

  • You live in Germany.

  • For births as of 1 April, 2024, single parents and couples with a taxable income of over €200,000 and single parents with a taxable income of over €150,000 will not be eligible for Elterngeld.

  • For births from 1 April, 2025, couples with a taxable income of over €175,000 will not be eligible for Elterngeld. For single parents, the threshold will remain at €150,000.

Who can receive Elterngeld?

  • Employees

  • Civil servants

  • Freelancers

  • Retirees

  • Students and apprentices

  • and the unemployed

Can internationals get Elterngeld?

Yes. It’s straightforward if you come from another EU country or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. 

If you are from a country outside of those listed above, you can generally receive Elterngeld if you live and work in Germany. You will need to have a permanent residence permit (Niederlassungs-Erlaubnis) for Germany, a permit for permanent EU residence (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU) or a residence permit (Aufenthalts-Erlaubnis) that allows (or allowed) you to work in Germany.

How much will you receive?

Elterngeld is calculated as up to 65% of your net (post tax) salary as it was before the birth of your child. Low income families may receive a higher percentage.

(Please note that in this article, we will go over the basics of Elterngeld and the calculations of Basiselterngeld (basic parental allowance.) We go over two other types of Elterngeld – Elterngeld Plus and the Partnerschaftsbonus – in this article.)

You will receive a minimum of €300 per month even if you were unemployed or your pre-birth income was not from an EU country (or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland). At most, you will receive €1800 per month, which is the cap for Elterngeld. 

If you’re having multiples, you will receive an extra €300 for twins, €600 for triplets and so on. If you already have older children, you may also receive extra money.

When will you receive the money?

The allowance will be paid out in a certain schedule that will be noted on your Elterngeldbescheid (confirmation letter). For example, if you live in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the allowance payment will be triggered by the local Jugendamt on the Tuesday following your child's birthdate (e.g. if you child was born on the 23rd, the payment will be triggered on the following Tuesday every month). It is, however, paid out by a different government agency, so that you will receive it by the Monday after. This means that they payment will not arrive in your account on the exact same date every month. Check your confirmation letter to know the payment schedule for your district.

How is Elterngeld calculated?

To calculate your Elterngeld, the 12 months prior to the month that your child was born will be taken into consideration. For example, if your child is born in August 2023, the months August 2022 to July 2023 will be used to calculate the amount of Elterngeld you receive.

If you had an income (higher than an average of €35 per month) from being self-employed (even if you were also “regularly” employed), the calendar year prior to when your baby was born will count. This can be good to know in case you have the ability to invoice early so the payment will get to your account in the calendar year before your child is born.

Use the Parental Allowance Calculator to learn more:

https://familienportal.de/familienportal/rechner-antraege/elterngeldrechner

You may also want to speak with your tax advisor to see if they have any other tips on how to maximize Elterngeld (such as changing tax classes – which would need to be done quite early on however.)

Can I still work while receiving Elterngeld?

Yes, but not more than 32 hours a week. If you work while receiving Elterngeld, your Elterngeld may get reduced. It will be 65% of the difference between your net income before your child’s birth and the net income after your child’s birth. 

Example: 

  • Your net income pre birth was €2500

  • Your post birth income is €1800

  • Difference: €700

  • 65% of €700 = €455

You will receive €455 per month in Elterngeld (plus the €1800 you receive as a salary).

Either way, you will still receive a minimum of €300 per month. 

(If you are a student or apprentice, you can work or study more than 30 hours a week and still receive Elterngeld.)

How does Elterngeld work exactly?

You can only receive “regular” Elterngeld in the first 14 months of your child’s life. After that you could still receive Elterngeld Plus or the so-called Partnership Bonus.

Elterngeld is not paid by calendar month but by month of life of the child. For example, if your child is born on the 24th of April, then the first month would be 24th of April to the 23rd of May, and so on.

How long can I receive Elterngeld for?

If only one parent applies for Elterngeld, then they can receive it for up to 12 months. If both parents apply for Elterngeld, then the partners can take a total of 14 months, to be split up between the two partners.

Note that each parent will need to take a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12 months each.

Note also that for any months that you are receiving a maternity allowance (Mutterschaftsgeld) or similar, these are counted as if you received Elterngeld.

When to apply for Elterngeld?

The earliest you can apply for Elterngeld is your child's day of birth. However, as you will need to include a range of documents with your application (such as the baby’s birth certificate), you will likely apply a few weeks after the birth.

At the latest, you should apply for Elterngeld three months after your child’s birth as otherwise you are forfeiting part of your entitlement to receive Elterngeld.

Either way, it is a good idea to take a look at the forms (see below) and required documents before your child is born so you have everything ready to go.

After the application is submitted, it will still take a few weeks for you to receive the Elterngeld in your account.

What are ElterngeldPlus and the Partnership Bonus?

As if things weren’t already confusing enough, there’s also two other parts to the Elterngeld universe that may be helpful to you. We cover them in more details in this blog post, but here’s a quick introduction to pique your interest:

For Elterngeld Plus, you can stretch your Elterngeld over double the number of months while receiving half the allowance. 

As a Partnership Bonus, each parent may claim an additional two to four months of Parental Allowance Plus benefits if certain conditions are met. 

Want to learn more or start filling out the forms?

If you'd like to learn more, check out Elodie's comprehensive online course called “Elterngeld & Co.” Elodie also offers 1-on-1 assistance with paperwork. Kietzee members receive a €10 discount on Elodie's services

Finally, if you’re ready to tackle the form, you have a couple of options:

  1. For Berlin, you can find the forms and further information here. You can also apply online at Elterngeld Digital.

  2. Or, use our partner dasElterngeld to fill in the form online in easy-to-understand German (in-browser translation to English in Chrome also works really well!).  This is a really user-friendly tool that takes about 30 minutes and that I wish had existed when our kids were born ;) They have an expert available to answer any questions you may have, plus a money back guarantee should you not end up getting any Elterngeld. It is €24.99 well spent in our humble opinion. The tool is currently available for Elterngeld applications in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden Wurttemberg, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony and soon also Berlin. Learn more.*

*Please note that we may receive a commission when you click on our links and make a purchase. This, however, has no bearing on our reviews and recommendations.

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