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Compensation for Absence or Part-Time Work of Project Leader

for Family Reasons such as Maternity Leave, Parental Leave or Care of Family Members

When a project leader is absent from work for family reasons, the DFG will endeavour to find a solution tailored to the individual circumstances. This also applies to the Emmy Noether Programme and to temporary positions for principal investigators. This solution should enable the uninterrupted continuation of the funded project where possible, support project staff and their research training and respect the legally protected interests of the individual in question (right to maternity leave or parental leave).

The following possibilities are offered in particular and may be made available on request, following individual consultation, either individually or in combination (another review process may be required depending on the measure):

  • Continuation of the project. If an individual is absent for no more than six months following the birth of a child, the project can continue, i.e. the working group can continue to be funded. In this case the project leader must provide a coherent explanation, in an informal supervision concept, of how project supervision will be ensured during this period (for example, the following aspects may be covered: absences and anticipated return to work of project leader – when and at how many hours per week; supervision of researchers engaged on the project, by other responsible persons at the institution if appropriate; rough overview of how the work is to be organised – including its content; in the case of projects within a network, also an explanation of whether and how the requirements of the other projects in the network have been taken into consideration). Following the period of absence the DFG expects the individual to return to work with at least 8 hours per week.

  • Supplemental proposal for the provision of additional funding for unforeseen project-related expenses. In particular, this may be an additional requirement for academic or student staff because the project leader can no longer perform in full the workload assigned to them (reducing project leader’s workload of project-specific routine duties, maintenance of time-critical projects or those that cannot be interrupted, project-related activities that are prohibited during pregnancy).

  • Interruption of the project (project remains on hold during this period and then work commences again)

  • Cost-neutral extension of project duration, for example when project leader is working part-time

  • Transfer of the project to another person with the option of transferring it back to the original project leader upon their return to work (temporary transfer; note that this is not possible in the Emmy Noether Programme or for temporary positions for principal investigators)

  • In exceptional cases only, where a project leader is absent for a number of years due to parental leave and the project cannot be interrupted: Transfer of the project to another researcher

In research networks, however, it can be problematic to put a project on hold or to extend its duration because the project in question was initiated as part of a network involving other projects and needs to be concluded at the same time (for example in Collaborative Research Centres, Priority Programmes, Research Units and Clinical Research Units).

Some specific circumstances are explained below:

Special Circumstances in Coordinated Programmes with Research Institutions as Applicants

In Collaborative Research Centres, DFG Research Centres, Clusters of Excellence, Research Training Groups and Graduate Schools, researchers working at the level of project leaders receive similar support. In this case, funding is generally provided from the resources already awarded to the network by the DFG.

Absence of Project Leader due to Parental Leave

The DFG expressly supports not only women, but also men who choose to put on hold at least some of their research work as project leaders to devote more time to parental responsibilities. If necessary, the DFG can also make additional financial resources available during this phase.

Employees are generally entitled to up to three years of statutory parental leave. The DFG can offer a maximum interruption of the same period for research projects which it funds. However, in such cases it may be necessary to provide an explanation of how the development of the early career researchers already involved in the project will be ensured.

Absence of Project Leader during the Normal Statutory Maternity Leave Period

The statutory period of maternity leave is approximately three months. During this period (which may also occur when a project leader is ill), it should be assumed that the support of research staff can be ensured by means of appropriate measures by the project leader. It is not normally necessary to appoint a new project leader (i.e. transfer the project) for this period alone. On request, the duration of the project can be extended accordingly on a cost-neutral basis.

Absence of Project Leader during Pregnancy

When a project leader becomes pregnant (this also refers to women who are funded through temporary positions for principal investigators or as leaders of an independent junior research group in the Emmy Noether Programme), it may be that she is no longer able to carry out certain types of work herself (e.g. women are prohibited from performing certain laboratory tasks from the moment they know they are pregnant). If this work cannot be taken over by other members of the working group, the project leader may apply for additional funding (normally for student assistants) to allow this work to be carried out. The proposal should be submitted as a supplemental proposal to the ongoing project.


Here you can find the appropriate contacts at the DFG Head Office for various types of enquiry: