Termination during parental leave – is that even legal in Germany?

Anyone who is on parental leave in Germany generally enjoys protection against unfair dismissal. This means that in principle it is not possible to give notice of termination during parental leave. However, there are exceptions. In what cases can the employer terminate the contract? Is it possible for the employee to give notice during parental leave? This blog article answers these and other questions

What special protection against unfair dismissal applies to employees on parental leave?

Employees who live with a child in a household and look after and raise it themselves are entitled to parental leave. Special protection against dismissal applies to employees on parental leave. It is not normally possible for the employer to give notice afterwards. In exceptional cases, however, your employer may also give you notice of termination during your parental leave, e.g. if the company is shut down, insolvency or serious breaches of duty or contract.

In what cases are employers allowed to give notice of termination during parental leave?

For termination during parental leave, the employer needs the prior consent of the competent state authority and a special reason. Such reasons can be, for example:

  • Closure of the company in which the employees on parental leave are employed
  • Relocation of the company in which the employees on parental leave are employed
  • Endangering of the existence of the company or the economic existence of the employer as well as insolvency of the employer
  • In the case of particularly serious breaches of duty or serious breaches of contract by the employee towards the employer, e.g. criminal acts

If you, as an employee, receive a notice of termination during parental leave, you should inquire with the responsible authority whether the notice of termination has been approved there. If not, the termination is almost always invalid. In the case of an approved exceptional termination, you can appeal against the official approval.

How long does the protection against dismissal apply during parental leave?

The protection against dismissal ends when the parental leave expires. This ends at the latest when the child reaches the age of three. Protection against dismissal ends one day before the child’s third birthday. The special protection against dismissal applies to the parent who is currently on parental leave, even if both take turns on parental leave. If both parents are on parental leave at the same time for a certain period of time, the special protection against dismissal applies to both equally during this time. The special protection against dismissal does not apply during the working hours between two periods of parental leave.

Termination of parental leave by employees

During parental leave, employees enjoy protection against dismissals by their employer. On the other hand, nothing stands in the way of termination by the employee, even during parental leave. The employee can resign at any time at the end of parental leave. It is of course not necessary to state reasons. However, the termination of the employment relationship must be in writing. If you would like to give notice as an employee and leave the company earlier than the deadline, i.e. before the end of parental leave (e.g. because you already have a new job), this is only possible with a mutual termination agreement between you and your employer. If, as an employee, you give notice of your own accord without already having a new job, you are normally not entitled to unemployment benefits within a blocking period of three months.

What can you do if you terminate your parental leave?

If you receive notice of termination from your employer during parental leave, you can defend yourself with an action for protection against unfair dismissal. Important: The period for filing a complaint with the responsible labor court is only 3 weeks. If you miss this deadline, the termination is effective. If your employer has the approval of the competent authority for an exceptional dismissal, you still have to file an action for protection against dismissal. As in all dismissal protection proceedings, the court then examines whether the reasons for dismissal given by the employer actually exist. This will often not be the case if you are dismissed during parental leave. If the employee is then not interested in continued employment, the ineffectiveness of the termination will definitely affect the amount of the severance payment. It is advisable to seek advice from a lawyer. After all, it’s about your job or a lot of money! You can carry out a rough check of the range of a severance payment here:

* A note about our wording. We do not always “gender” – E.g. when we are talking about employees. But we are trying to keep things simple. German labor law is complex enough. For the sake of  clarity and legibility in our texts, we have therefore decided to omit most gender formulations.

You can find more information about what to look out for here: