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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure DE-2020-11/1693 Updated – measures in Germany

Parental leave payment flexibilisation

Flexibilisierung beim Elterngeld (BMFSFJ)

Country Germany , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 11 March 2020 – 23 September 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Income protection beyond short-time work
– Support for parents and carers (financial or in kind)
Author Birgit Kraemer (Hans Boeckler Foundation) and Eurofound
Measure added 10 January 2021 (updated 27 February 2023)

Background information

Germany's pandemic response, including lock-downs, social distancing measures, occupational bans and business confinements, has disproportionally affected low-income households (Hövermann 2020). With over 10 million employees working under Germany's short-time work scheme (Kurzarbeit) already back in May 2020, income top-ups such as child benefits, housing benefits or unemployment benefits have increased in importance (Focus online 2020).

To reduce hardship from income reductions, the Government has extended and increased parental leave payments in March 2020, until December 2020. Some changes were extended in December 2020, to last until December 2021.

Content of measure

The March 2020 changes to parental leave regulation made parental leave periods more flexible and ensured some income stability for working parents. According to the changes of MArch 2020, parents working in essential services (systemically relevant sectors) can shift parental leave into the future without any decrease in the amounts received. Parental leave periods have to be spent until June 2021. Working parents who face salary cuts due to the pandemic or pandemic response measures continue to receive the parental leave payment amounts based on their declared income at the time of application. These changes were valid until the end of 2020.

New changes to parental leave regulation of December 2020 aimed for further income stabilisation for families. Income top-ups such as short-time work payments (Kurzarbeitergeld) or unemployment benefits do not influence the parental leave payment calculation. Parental leave payment is based on parents' declared income at the time of application. These changes are valid until December 2021.


The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

18 October 2022

The measure expired on 23 September 2022.

01 September 2021

Loss of income that expectant parents had due to the COVID-19 pandemic can be excluded from the calculation of the parental leave benefit. This measure has been prolonged until 23 September 2022.

Income replacement benefits, such as short-time work allowance or child sickness benefit, do not reduce the parental allowance of parents who work part-time while receiving parental allowance. This measure has been incorporated into the rules for the parental leave benefit without a time limit.

Use of measure

Policy implementation is not working smoothly according to media reports. The main challenge in implementing the measure is a noticeable delay in payments. For example in Berlin, families wait almost seven weeks on average before receiving the payment (BZ 2020). The policy impact of the measure may include an unintended but severe decrease in female employment. Also in Berlin, seventy percent of applicants are mothers. Thirty percent are fathers (BZ 2020). As early as May 2020, a WSI study found that Germany's pandemic response is triggering a reduction in wages and working hours for women and thus widening the gender gap in pay and employment (Kohlrausch and Zucco, 2020). The unintended policy impact on gender (in)equality precedes and potentially also exceeds the intended policy impact of stabilizing household income.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Parents in employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: N/A


Social partners are usually consulted by the Federal Government when drafting national laws or other major regulations concerning the labour market. No formal tripartite social dialogue structure exists to design pandemic control measures. Germany's pandemic response is based on government by decrees, without parliamentary participation. Public statements by both social partners have informally influenced the policy design of this BMFSFJ measure.

Views and reactions

The Association of business people and self-employed workers (Verband der Gründer und Selbstständigen Deutschland) has criticized the measure for disadvantaging self-employed workers (VGSD 2020).



Eurofound (2021), Parental leave payment flexibilisation, measure DE-2020-11/1693 (measures in Germany), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.