Making Family Life and Service in the Bundeswehr More Compatible

Military personnel are also just people – which means that they are parents, partners or caregivers for family members. However, it is not always easy to coordinate the demands of duty with the obligations and requirements of a family. That is why the compatibility of family life and service in the Bundeswehr is a major priority.

Ein Soldat der Bundeswehr und seine Tochter umarmen sich
Bundeswehr/Sebastian Wilke

The Bundeswehr: an employer with a sense of proportion

A great deal of mobility and dedication is demanded of Bundeswehr personnel. Frequent transfers, deployments abroad and training courses put a strain on marriages, relationships and families. For that reason, Bundeswehr personnel deserve reliable and caring support from their employer in balancing their family lives with their jobs.

Independence from working hours and place of work

Kind am Tisch, im Hintergrund Soldat am Schreibtisch

One solution is taking your child to work with you. But you can’t do that everywhere.

Bundeswehr/Thomas Ströter

In order to improve the compatibility of family life and service, the Bundeswehr has established modern working models and offers family-friendly working hours. In the medium term, the Bundeswehr plans to offer more flexibility in terms of location and hours whenever possible. Office jobs, which have primarily been stationary and required the employees’ physical presence up to this point, are to be freed from this requirement. The Bundeswehr is pursuing the introduction of a home office day for appropriate organisations or individual positions.

Telework offers more flexibility

Telework allows Bundeswehr personnel to do their jobs at a workplace in their homes, either with agreed schedules for presence or by setting their own working hours. The increased flexibility helps employees to better coordinate their work requirements with family obligations. Telework should be seen as an offer that the organisation makes to all employees unless urgent work-related reasons make it impossible. When applying for telework, there is no need to specify a reason.

Temporary remote working

Mensch sitzt mit Laptop am Schreibtisch

Security in a home office? No problem, thanks to handy encryption equipment.

Bundeswehr/Torsten Kraatz

In the event of serious family emergencies, temporary remote working can help employees handle difficult periods without a lot of red tape. It can help if, for example, employees’ family members require temporary care, or commuters absolutely have to be at home for a limited period of time. In these cases, individual adjustments to an employee’s obligation to do their work in the office can be made for a certain period of time. The necessary mobile IT  equipment will be provided.

Compatibility of family life and service in the Bundeswehr

Young families are looking for an ideal balance between advancing their careers and spending time with their families. The same is true of Bundeswehr personnel. Against this backdrop, the Bundeswehr is working to improve the compatibility of family and work requirements.

Soldat geht mit Kind an der Hand

You don’t have to choose: Bundeswehr personnel should have enough time for their families.

Bundeswehr/Jana Neumann

Reliable child care

The availability of comprehensive child care is essential to the compatibility of family life and service in the Bundeswehr, which is why it is also one of the objectives of the “Bundeswehr in the lead” attractiveness campaign. For example, the Bundeswehr now has its own day-care centre, along with three day-care facilities affiliated with the Bundeswehr. To ensure that adequate child care is available to meet requirements throughout the Bundeswehr’s locations, the Bundeswehr also reserves places in suitable municipal and private day-care centres. Whenever possible, the hours of child care are coordinated with the parents’ working hours.

Kind auf Spielplatz

The foundation for service: reliable care for their children offers Bundeswehr personnel a sense of security.

Bundeswehr/ Steve Back

Information from a single source

Bundeswehr personnel receive active support for child care at the various locations if the available child care infrastructure is not adequate to meet their requirements. The Bundeswehr’s Child Care Portal also provides information about existing offers, local points of contact, and legal regulations related to parental leave and maternity protection. Downloadable forms, as well as chats and forums, round out the information offered.

Active support outside of Germany

The Bundeswehr also aims to take suitable measures to improve child care at the Bundeswehr garrisons outside of Germany where personnel require child care – for example by establishing a day care or reserving places in existing child care facilities.

Taking children to the office

More than 340 parent-child offices have been set up on Bundeswehr sites, and more are in planning. This offer is available to all Bundeswehr personnel in specific and temporary emergency situations. It takes pressure off of parents when their regular child care is temporarily unavailable and no other solution is available in time. These offices are another element in improving the compatibility of family life and service in the Bundeswehr.

Soldatin am Schreibtisch, im Vordergrund spielt ein Kind

Everyday support: parent-child offices in Bundeswehr locations help employees to combine their family lives with their duties.

Bundeswehr/Andrea Bienert

Superiors are held accountable

However, all of these options can only truly help if superiors do their part. For that reason, the Bundeswehr holds them particularly accountable: in the words of the current Manual on the Compatibility of Family Life and Service in the Armed Forces (Handbuch zur Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Dienst in den Streitkräften), “The employer and all superiors are […] obliged to consider the family and relationship needs of military personnel when implementing the requirements of duty”.

Support during deployments abroad

Through its nationwide family support organisation, the Bundeswehr helps to relieve the considerable strains to which families are subjected when military personnel are deployed outside Germany. With 31 family assistance centres and up to 50 temporary deployment-related family support points, this organisation offers soldiers and their families help and advice. While the family assistance centres also ensure support during routine duty, the family support points only handle deployment-related support tasks. Family members can contact family support day and night for the entire duration of a deployment through the freephone connection.

Frau und Kind sitzen vor Laptop

Thanks to Skype: Dad is on operations but still in the picture.

Bundeswehr/Michael Sommer

Support through information management

The family support organisation cooperates closely with Bundeswehr organisations and civilian authorities that provide social services, as well as the Bundeswehr Assistance Network (Netzwerk der Hilfe). In addition, the family support organisation holds regular information meetings on site to inform family members of the situation in the mission areas. These events are also important platforms for the various family members to come into contact with each other.

Allowing personnel to give care: another element in improving the compatibility of family life and service in the Bundeswehr

Due to the ongoing ageing of our society, an increasing number of people have relatives in need of care. Everyone has the legal right to care for their family members. Of course, this also applies to the Bundeswehr. Employees can ask to be released from duty for up to ten days to provide care. As of the beginning of 2015, they no longer have to do without any pay for this period. The person providing care can apply for a carer’s grant as a wage compensation benefit from the care insurance fund.

Family caregiver leave with wage compensation

In cases of hardship, employees can take up to six months of partial or complete leave. However, they do not receive wages during this period and still have to make their health insurance payments. They pay the minimum premium for the statutory health insurance as voluntary members. This rule applies to employees, but not to civil servants and military personnel. The Family Caregiver Leave Act (Pflegezeitgesetz) gives the caregivers the right to an interest-free loan so that they can support themselves during this period. Caregivers can apply for this loan, which generally covers half of the net salary they are missing for this period, from the Federal Office for Family and Civil Affairs (BAFzA).

Junger Mann sitzt neben älterem Mann am Tisch

The issue of care concerns everyone – and can affect anyone.

dpa/Patrick Pleul

Reducing working hours for two years

Because few people can afford to take time off without pay, family caregiver leave has been available since 2012. It was also incorporated into the Federal Civil Service Act (Bundesbeamtengesetz – BBG) in 2013. This leave allows family members to reduce their working hours for up to 24 months as long as they continue to work at least 15 hours per week. They can also receive supplementary benefits in addition to their pay during this period. To do so, however, they must continue working for the reduced pay after the end of their family caregiver leave until they have made up for this “advance”.

Different rules for military personnel

Junge Frau hilft älterer Frau beim Trinken

Giving care takes time. Legal regulations grant clear rights to family members.

dpa/Patrick Pleul

As of now, however, this provision does not apply to military personnel. After completing a service period of four years, they have the right to work part-time – unless urgent work-related reasons make it impossible for them to do so. Pilots, flight crews and personnel working on Navy ships and vessels generally cannot work part-time. The same applies to command assignments with disciplinary power and to special foreign assignments.

Working flexibly to accommodate care

Employees who are caregivers for family members can also apply for telework or temporary remote working in order to better coordinate their official duties with providing care at home. More flexible working hours with official duty and core duty phases, as well as individual agreements, make it easier to care for family members.

The Social Services offer advice

The Bundeswehr Social Services offer affected employees extensive advice on the support available to family caregivers. This applies regardless of status group. If necessary, they will also put employees in touch with organisations within and outside of the Bundeswehr. The Social Services also help Bundeswehr personnel with applications, for example for recognition of levels of care, for special leave or for family caregiver leave.