The working mother was unable to return to her job as desired, and had to wait an additional five months before a Kita spot in the Pankow district in the north of Berlin became available.
“The defendant shall pay the plaintiff €7,500 to compensate the claim and all damages in connection with it,” according to the minutes of the settlement of December 2019. The defendant is the city-state of Berlin.
Wednesday’s verdict means that there could now be greater financial consequences if a Berlin district is unable to offer either a childcare spot or at-home care with a Tagesmutter as an alternative to parents.
“The court has taken an unequivocal position,” lawyer Madlen Peiser, who represented the plaintiff in court, told the Berliner Morgenpost.
In 2019, Pankow district alone had 10 claims for damages for loss of earnings due to missing kita spots, some of which ended in settlement, according to Rona Tietje (SPD), the district councillor responsible for youth. However, the sums paid out to parents were significantly lower.
Why the lack of spots?
In Berlin there were nearly 30,000 more children under the age of seven in 2017 compared with 2013.
This has led to an estimated shortage of Kita spots ranging between 3,000 and 10,000 in Berlin alone – Germany-wide there's an estimated shortage of 270,000 spots.
The Pankow mother had already started searching for a Kita spot for her child during her pregnancy in her district of Pankow, but she failed to find anything.
This meant that she could not immediately return to her job as an employee after her child's first birthday, the age at which children in Berlin and Brandenburg are entitled to childcare.
In October 2016, Germany’s Supreme Court awarded three working mothers from Leipzig damages in similar cases.
The landmark case set the condition that payment to parents would only be made if a court recognized that a city was partly responsible for the lack of Kita spots.
READ ALSO: Leipzig must pay families denied childcare
Childcare from the age of one
It remains to be seen whether the Pankow decision will affect other claims: The southern Tempelhof-Schöneberg district has two similar claims for damages pending before Berlin's Regional Court, and in both instances the loss of earnings is even longer.
There have also been cases throughout Germany: in 2018, the administrative court in Stuttgart received 34 lawsuits about childcare, in 2019, there have been 16 so far. In Munich, 165 cases have been filed since the introduction of the legal entitlement to a place in August 2013.
In 2018, the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg ordered the state to provide kita spots to all children starting from the age of one.
Since then, the districts have had five weeks to act when parents sue. If necessary, the districts then finance private transitional care.
The districts are currently financing replacement at-home care in 48 cases, according to Berlin’s Senate Administration for Education.