In Germany, the Maternity Proctection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz) applies to all female employees expecting a child who are employed under a continuous contract, regardless of citizenship or family status, though the workplace has to be in Germany. The law serves as a protection of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their child from workplace hazards, overexertion and exhaustion, health impairment, and from financial loss or loss of workplace.
According to the law, maternity protection begins six to eight weeks before the birth and ends eight to twelve weeks after the birth. During that period of time, under no circumstances the employee is allowed to work (Beschäftigungsverbot, also called Mutterschaftsurlaub: maternity leave).
During the fourteen weeks of maternity protection/maternity leave, mothers are financially secure as they receive maternity pay (Mutterschaftsgeld) in the amount of the previous average net income. Maternity pay is paid jointly by the health insurance provider and the employer, who pays an employer supplement (Arbeitgeberzuschuss). Upon expiry of maternity protection/maternity leave, many mothers (and fathers) take parental leave (Elternzeit) and receive parental benefit (Elterngeld) as financial support, though parental benefit will be much less than the previous net income.
Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit und Gleichstellung (The Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, and Gender Equality, brochures on maternity leave in multiple languages)