Recently, the German Federal Cabinet approved the draft law submitted by the Federal Family Ministry providing for new regulations on maternity protection. Multinational companies with employees in Germany should be aware of the new law which shall be adopted this year and become effective as from January 1, 2017.
The draft aims to improve the protection of pregnant women, mothers and their children and to adjust the current Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz – MuSchG) which already dates back to 1952 to changes in society.
Maternity Protection under Current Law
Under the current Maternity Protection Act, employees are prohibited from working 6 weeks prior to childbirth until 8 weeks after childbirth. In case of premature birth or twin or multiple childbirth, the 8-week period is extended to 12 weeks.
Furthermore, pregnant employees may not be assigned any dangerous work, night duty, piecework or assembly-line work. If necessary, working conditions have to be rearranged in order to meet the protection requirements.
During suspension from work, employees are entitled to full pay and maternity allowance from the statutory health insurance scheme.
Furthermore, during pregnancy and until 4 months after childbirth any termination of employment is invalid.
Key Aspects of the New Draft Law
The draft law provides in particular for the following amendments to the Maternity Protection Act:
- Extended Scope of Application: According to the draft, the Maternity Protection Act shall not only apply to women in an employment relationship, but under certain circumstances also to school and university students, interns and during industrial training. Furthermore, personnel with the same status as employees, disabled women working in workshops for people with disabilities as well as development assistants and women assisting in the Federal Voluntary Service shall receive the same protection.
- Longer Protection Period in Case of Disabled Children: In case an employee gives birth to a disabled child, she shall be prohibited from working for 12 weeks instead of 8 weeks after childbirth. This is meant to take into account the particular physical and psychological stress as well as higher care needs associated with the birth of a disabled child.
- Termination Protection in Case of Miscarriage: According to the draft, the termination protection for pregnant women shall also apply to women who suffer a miscarriage after the twelfth week of pregnancy.
- Improved Working Conditions for Expectant Mothers: Working conditions shall be adjusted with particular care for the health of expectant mothers and their unborn babies. In this way, women shall be able to continue their work without impairment of their or their child’s health. Moreover, any disadvantages due to the pregnancy or childbirth shall be prevented.