Any employee of either sex who is employed at Freie Universität Berlin can apply for parental leave (Elternzeit). That means that even fixed-term employees, part-time employees, student employees, and apprentices or trainees are eligible for parental leave.
Mothers and fathers are legally eligible for parental leave until a child reaches the age of three years, provided that they care for the child themselves. Both parents can take parental leave at the same time, with each of them working up to 30 hours a week. With an employer’s approval, up to twelve months of an employee’s parental leave can be applied to the period between the child’s third and eighth birthdays. This enables parents to devote more attention to their children at different times, such as when the child is preparing to start school for the first time.
If an employee wishes to go on parental leave immediately following the child’s birth (such as in the case of adoption) or immediately after maternity leave, the employee must apply for parental leave no later than six weeks in advance. If the employee wishes to go on parental leave later, the employee must submit his or her application no later than eight weeks before the proposed start date of his or her leave. When the employee submits his or her application, he or she is also required to explain which periods of the remaining two years the employee intends to use as parental leave. Parental leave applications must be submitted to the appropriate personnel office. In addition, the Personnel Office of Freie Universität provides information on the consequences of parental leave for an employee’s employment.
The applicant is required to abide by the parental leave period applied for and approved by the employer. Employees cannot terminate their parental leave early or extend their parental leave except with the approval of Freie Universität Berlin as the employer. In these cases, the appropriate bodies at Freie Universität will make every effort to accommodate the wishes of the university’s employees.
Who Is Eligible for Parental Benefits (Elterngeld)?
Any person who cares for a child and is therefore interrupting or reducing his or her gainful employment is eligible for government parental benefits (Elterngeld), but parental benefits are also available to the unemployed. Applications for parental benefits must be submitted to a Parental Benefits Office (Elterngeldstelle) within the Federal State (Bundesland) where the employee resides.
For gainfully employed parents, parental benefits amount to 67 percent of the net income they are to lose, but not more than 1,800 euros per month. The minimum amount of benefits is 300 euros. If parents are reducing their working hours, they are eligible for parental benefits only on a pro rata basis, for the amount of income from work they are losing.
“Paternity Leave Months” Equal Leave for Both Partners
One parent can receive parental benefits for a maximum of 12 months. The eligibility period increases by two months, to a total of 14 months, if both partners participate. This is a new feature of the parental benefit regulations established in 2007, and it is the reason that many fathers claim exactly two months of parental benefits, and with them parental leave. This new provision was inaccurately discussed in the media as “paternity leave months,” potentially leaving the impression that fathers are only entitled to take two months of parental leave.
If, however, both the mother and the father claim parental benefits at the same time and work part-time while doing so, they can only do so for a maximum of seven months.