Pregnancy: Legal Framework
Maternity Leave: The Basics
The maternity leave law applies to every (anticipating) employed mother. It applies to part-time workers, domestic workers, home workers, as well as to women undergoing vocational training, if the latter is bound to a work contract.
Neither nationality nor family status play a role. The deciding factor is a workplace in Germany.
The Aim of Maternity Leave
The maternity leave provided by law aims to protect dependently employed (anticipating) mothers and their child from health risks, excessive work, financial penalties and dismissal during pregnancy and for a certain time after birth.
The maternity leave law contains to this end special regulations regarding workplace arrangement, dismissal protection, employment prohibition combined with continued payment beyond the maternity leave period, as well as financial support in the form of maternity benefits and employer contribution to these benefits during the maternity leave period.
Maternity Leave: New Regulations
To conform to the ever-changing societal and legal frameworks, the maternity leave law was thoroughly reformed in 2017. Further changes became valid on January 1, 2018.
Maternity Leave Law and Other Statutory Regulations
Aside from the maternity leave law, lawmakers have issued numerous other provisions in order to ensure protection from dangers, excessive work and dangerous materials at the workplace. On the right side of this page you can find the law, a guideline that explains it, as well as key regulations (all in German).
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In accordance with the maternity leave law, pregnant and breastfeeding women are not allowed to work, among others, with toxic or radioactive chemicals. Activities that include continual lifting and carrying, as well as permanent standing, stretching or bending are forbidden too.
- Composing an Individual Work Plan
Work conditions and circumstances may vary widely according to research topic. Some topics revolve mainly around lab work, while others such as mathematical modeling and bioinformatics are conducted mainly on the computer. For this reason, pregnant employees receive an individual work plan, composed with the help of the safety commissioner. In case of lab work with chemicals that might hurt the anticipating mother or her unborn child, solutions need to be found. Technicians in such cases may be given other tasks. For PhD students and post-doctoral fellows, with their limited contracts and strictly defined research topics, necessary for the completion of their degree or tenure and for subsequent career steps, other solutions need to be found in order for their pregnancy to not become an obstacle in their professional development.
- Pregnancy Lab
If a female scientist does not herself work with hazardous chemicals, but her colleagues at the same lab do, she may still proceed with her work. In such cases lab work can be conducted in a specially designated pregnancy lab. In this lab no hazardous chemicals are allowed, and all benches are dedicated to pregnant scientists only.
- Personal Support
On a case-by-case basis, it is possible to proceed with the research project with help from technicians or student workers. The scientist plans her experiments and discusses them with her assigned helper. The latter then conducts the experiments in the lab.
- Extension of Contract
Should pregnancy, maternity leave and child care cause delays in the scientific work, the institute offers an optional contract extension, to be given on a case-by-case basis.