All parents in Germany are entitled to take time off work if they have to care for a sick child - without having to sacrifice holiday days or income.
In some cases, the parent’s employer may continue paying their salary. Otherwise, the statutory health insurance company will step in to pay something known as the child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld) - a kind of crossover between child benefits and sickness benefits.
What is child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld)?
If you cannot work because you have to look after your sick child, German case law stipulates that you should continue to be paid by your employer for up to five working days. To qualify for this, you would need to present a certificate from a doctor to your employer, attesting that your child is sick and requires care at home.
However, employment contracts and collective agreements in Germany often exclude this possibility, specifying that if the employee is unable to work due to personal reasons, they are not entitled to continued remuneration.
If you have a clause like this in your contract, you can still take leave to care for your child - but it will be unpaid. At this point, the statutory health insurance system steps in to pay out the child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld).
Requirements for child sickness benefit
You can claim child sickness benefit if all of the following apply:
- You are a waged employee entitled to sickness benefit
- You are covered by statutory health insurance
- Your child is sick and cannot go to school or childcare
- Your child is no older than 12 years (an exception applies to disabled children)
- Your child is also legally insured as a dependant
- A doctor has certified that your child needs care
- There is no other person in the household who can look after your child
If you or your child are covered by private health insurance, you are not entitled to the child sickness benefit. If you are insured in the PKV scheme, check with your insurance company to see if they provide a similar sort of benefit.
How much child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld) will I get?
The amount of child sickness benefit you will receive depends on your regular salary. Statutory health insurance companies will pay up to 90 percent of your lost net earnings. Up to 100 percent may be paid if you received one-off payments such as holiday or Christmas bonuses in the 12 months before drawing the benefit.
However, the benefit is capped at 70 percent of the contribution assessment ceiling for health insurance, which in 2021 is 4.837,50 euros per month. The gross maximum amount of child sickness benefits paid out in 2021 is therefore 112,88 euros per day. Bear in mind that contributions for pensions, long-term care and unemployment insurance will also be deducted from your child sickness benefit.
Note that any child sickness benefit you receive may count as regular income in the calculation of other social security benefits like housing benefit. For instance, if you have claimed Kinderkrankengeld in the past year - and thereby reduced your overall income - it will affect the amount of parental allowance you are entitled to receive, since this benefit is both calculated based on your income over past 12 months.
How long can I claim child sickness benefit for?
Each parent is entitled to up to 10 days of child sickness benefit per child, per calendar year, up to a maximum of 25 days in total. Single parents can claim up to 20 days per child - or a maximum of 50 days per year.
Parents of terminally ill children can receive child sickness benefit for an unlimited period of time. In this instance, the child doesn’t necessarily have to live in the household of the insured person and be cared for there. For instance, they might be housed in a hospital or hospice.
How to apply for child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld)
To apply for child sickness benefit, you first need to get a certificate from your regular family doctor, stating that you cannot work due to the need to care for your sick child. This form is known as the “Ärztliche Bescheinigung für den Bezug von Krankengeld bei Erkrankung eines Kindes” (medical certificate for receipt of sickness benefit in the event of a child’s illness).
On the bottom or rear side of this form is a part that you need to fill out to apply for the sickness benefit. You need to provide details about your German bank account and your employer.
You then need to send both the doctor’s certificate and your signed application form to your employer and your health insurance company. Your health insurer may also ask for a certificate of earnings from your employer, in order to be able to calculate how much sick pay you should receive. The benefit will then be paid directly into your bank account.
Child sickness benefit & Unemployment benefits
You can also claim the child sickness benefit if you are in receipt of unemployment benefits. You will need to present the doctor’s certificate to your local employment agency to let them know that you will be unable to attend any appointments. In this instance, you do not need to contact your health insurance provider.
Unemployed people are entitled to the same number of child sickness benefit days as employed people - but claiming child sickness benefit will not extend the total duration of your unemployment benefit entitlement.
Child sickness benefit (Kinderkrankengeld) & Corona
In 2020 and 2021, with schools across Germany being forced to close due to COVID-19, the federal and state governments agreed to increase parents’ entitlement to the child sickness benefit: between October 29 and December 31, 2020, each parent can claim up to 15 days per child, up to a maximum of 35 days. Single parents receive up to 70 days.
The entitlement has also been increased for 2021, so that each parent can claim up to 20 days per child (40 days per child for single parents). For parents with more than two children, the maximum entitlement in 2021 is 90 days.
The rules have also been shifted so that, instead of just applying in cases where a sick child needs to be taken care of, the benefit will now also be made available when parents have no option but to care for their child at home - for instance if schools or daycare facilities are closed, if compulsory attendance has been lifted, or parents have been officially advised not to send their children to school.
In these instances, a doctor's certificate will not be required. Parents must simply apply to their health insurance company. The insurer may ask for a certificate or official letter from the school or daycare centre to confirm that the child cannot or is not attending.