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Student Pregnancy, Maternity, Adoption and Parental Leave Policy

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The purpose of this policy is to set out clear guidance on the support available for you if you are pregnant or need time away from your course due to antenatal care appointments, fertility treatment, maternity/parental leave, adoption, fostering and breast feeding. This policy applies to all students regardless of personal characteristics or level of study. Guidance is provided in relation to:

  • If you become pregnant during your studies
  • If you are a prospective student who is pregnant at the start of your studies
  • If you have recently given birth (within the past 26 weeks)
  • If you are about to become a parent because your partner is pregnant, and you will have parental responsibility
  • If you have recently become a parent (including adoption and surrogacy)
  • If you or your partner is undergoing fertility treatment to become pregnant
  • If you or your partner has experienced stillbirth, neonatal death, miscarriage or termination

We are committed to ensuring that you are not discriminated against in relation to pregnancy, maternity, parental responsibility, adoption, surrogacy or fertility treatment.

We aim to provide you with support, so that you can continue/complete your studies, whilst maintaining academic standards. The level of flexibility may vary between awards due to health and safety issues, learning outcomes that are set by external bodies e.g. Nursing courses, the requirements of your course and other factors but wherever possible reasonable adjustments will be made.

We are a family friendly university. For more Information visit our Student Parent webpage.

Overview

This policy details what support is available to you, how to access that support, and provides general guidance and information relating to pregnancy, maternity leave, becoming a new parent, adoption and parental leave.

For ease, topics are arranged into alphabetical order – starting with absences due to appointments. You do not have to inform your School if you become pregnant, have a child, have a miscarriage, experience neonatal death or terminate a pregnancy. Nor do you have to inform your school if you or your partner are undergoing fertility treatment or planning to adopt. However, we strongly advise all pregnant students to inform their school / academic mentor that they are pregnant.

If you make your course leader/academic mentor aware this enables:

  • Any support or adaptions required to be put in place onsite or during any placement/ field trips.
  • Guidance and support in relation to suitable accommodation if appropriate. (please note we do not currently offer student family accommodation)
  • Any necessary risk assessments carried out to ensure the health, safety and well-being of you and your unborn child.

Unfortunately, any absences due to antenatal care appointments or pregnancy related illness cannot be considered in relation to your personal circumstances if your school are not aware of your pregnancy prior. Sometimes, your absence from university can adversely affect the work of other students you are working alongside (for example, on a group project), if we know in advance, we can make plans to avoid/manage any such issues arising from the absence.

Equally, if your school is not aware that you are a new parent, considering adoption or fostering, that you or your partner are undergoing fertility treatment, or experience neonatal death it will be difficult to make adjustments for your personal circumstances.

You can get general advice and support from Student Support and Wellbeing and the Students’ Union Advice Centre.
This policy should be used alongside the Academic Award Regulations for all levels of study.

Absences due to appointments

Appointments due to antenatal care, adoption, fostering where possible should take place outside of teaching or placement time however if this is not possible try to reduce the impact of your absence by arranging at the beginning or the end of the day.

If you are a parent or are a legal guardian there may be times when you are required to take some time out to care for an ill child, breast feed, take maternity or paternity leave, take parental leave due to settling a child into the home after surrogate birth, adoption or whilst fostering etc. Any such circumstances should be discussed immediately with your School Course Leader/ Academic Mentor to agree the best way forward and reduce the impact on your studies (please note flexibility will be demonstrated where possible however some professional, regulating bodies and awarding timelines may restrict how flexible).

Adoption and Fostering

If you have been matched for adoption or foster, please discuss with your Course Leader/ Academic Mentor how this may impact on your attendance and study particularly if you require time off. Your Academic Mentor/ Course Leader and you can then draw up an action plan. If your partner is the primary adopter, you should discuss parental leave as outlined in Parental Leave section.

Appointments, Antenatal Care and Pre-Adoption/Fostering Appointments

If you are pregnant or if you need to attend pre-adoption/fostering appointments, you are entitled to reasonable time off to attend appointments. Wherever possible, appointments should be arranged outside of teaching or at the start or the end of the placement working day. We appreciate, that this may not always be possible.

If you are to become a Parent, you will be entitled to request time out of study. This is likely to include time off for medical/pre-adoption/fostering appointments as well as a period of parental leave. Flexibility will be shown where possible although this may be more limited in some awards than others If this applies to you, then you should contact the Student Hub to make an appointment with Student Support and Wellbeing staff to discuss this.

If your course is approved by professional, statutory or regulatory bodies e.g. Adult Nursing, you should discuss the implications of missed time in practice with your Course Leader, Academic Mentor or designated member of staff e.g. placement co-ordinator in order to ensure this does not have a negative impact on your studies.

Assessments and placements during parental leave

If you choose to sit an examination while your partner is in labour or during your parental leave, or if you are unable to sit an examination or submit coursework on time because of your own or partner’s pregnancy, labour, neonatal death, miscarriage, stillbirth or if you are unable to undertake as field trips or work placements, or complete laboratory work as a direct result of difficulties arising from pregnancy, you could consider making an application for Exceptional Circumstances.

Breast feeding and expressing milk

If you are breast feeding you may wish to express milk so your child can access breast milk when you’re not available. If you require somewhere to express your milk, please let your Course Leader / Academic Mentor / Placement Coordinator know and arrangements will be discussed with you.

If you require time out of your course or placement to breastfeed or express milk, please discuss and draw up an agreed action plan with your Course Leader/ Academic Mentor.

See Students on placement/Workplace Learning section for information about breast feeding and expressing milk at your placement/workplace.

Childcare facilities

We understand that childcare is a priority. The Stoke campus has an OFSTED registered nursery, for further details contact:

Telephone: 01782 294981
Email: nursery@staffs.ac.uk
Webpage: www.staffs.ac.uk/nursery

If you prefer to access childcare closer to home, are a distance learner or are studying at one of our other University campuses, please contact the Stoke campus nursery for details of providers in your area.

Complaints

We are committed to monitoring and evaluating our services to enhance their quality and ensure that they meet the standards outlined in our Student Charter and other appropriate policies and regulations.

We have a formal complaints and appeals procedure to ensure that complaints and comments are dealt with in an efficient and professional manner.

If you would like support, advice or guidance please email regulations@staffs.ac.uk

Course assessments and examinations during pregnancy

In most cases, there will be no need for amendments in course assessments or examinations to be made due to pregnancy unless:

  • Type of course assessment puts you and/or unborn child at risk
  • There are pregnancy related complications, that mean you are unable to undertake course assessments and examinations
  • The physical impact of late or multiple pregnancy (e.g. twins) makes participation in usual course assessments and examinations would mean that you are put at a disadvantage.

This may be particularly relevant for courses where there are practical elements to the assessments e.g. Sciences/Health and Sports courses. In these circumstances reasonable adjustments to course assessments and examinations should be considered as per Reasonable Adjustments in Assessment Guidance. We acknowledge this may not always be possible.

Masters, PhD and Professional Doctorate students should liaise with their Course Leader/Supervisors regarding potential impact of pregnancy on their studies/research.

If you are unable to undertake course assessments or examinations due to difficulties arising as a result of pregnancy, you could consider making an application for Exceptional Circumstances.

Discrimination, bullying and harassment

We are committed to ensuring that anyone who studies, at the university can do so without fear of discrimination. We want everyone to experience a culture of openness in which everyone is valued equally and respected.

We will not tolerate any individual being subjected to abuse, harassment or bullying particularly because of their personal characteristics – in this case Pregnancy and Maternity.

If you have been subjected to abuse, harassment or bullying for any reason, please tell us and the matter will be investigated. If you wish to make a complaint, please refer to Complaints section.

Fertility Treatment

We recognise the challenges which may arise from undergoing fertility treatments.

If you are undergoing fertility treatment, you may need additional support due to:

  • the impact of medical treatment
  • other caring responsibilities
  • related medical appointments.

If your partner is undergoing fertility treatment, then it may be possible for you to attend appointments with your partner.

If you require support, please contact the Student Hub to make an appointment with the Student Support and Wellbeing Team.

Financial support

If you have caring responsibilities for children or dependent adults you may qualify for extra financial support from Student Finance e.g. non-repayable grants.

Financial support available may be different dependant on whether you are an Undergraduate, Postgraduate or Doctoral Student, therefore we strongly advise you access funding and financial support and contact the Student Union Advice Centre.

Health and Safety considerations

If you’re pregnant or have given birth within the previous six months, or you’re breastfeeding, you can face specific risks to your health and that of your unborn child or baby. For most new, expectant or breastfeeding mothers, normal Health and Safety measures are adequate. When participating in a University activity, the level of risk you’re exposed you are will depend on:

  • the requirements and nature of the event or activity
  • your individual circumstances, as there are physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy that may make you more vulnerable.

Some of the more common hazards might be:

  • lifting, handling, carrying heavy loads
  • posture, travelling, mental and physical fatigue
  • workstations, working at height, or working alone
  • standing or sitting still for long periods of time
  • exposure to biological agents, harmful or high-risk substances, or radioactive material
  • exposure to shocks, vibrations, excessive noise, or extreme heat.

In particular:

  • the highest risk of damage to an unborn baby is during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy
  • when breastfeeding, there is a risk of passing certain chemicals or biological agents to your baby via your milk.

It is important that you tell us about any advice you’ve received from a doctor or midwife (for example pregnancy-related medical conditions such as high blood pressure, a history of miscarriages) that could affect the risk assessment.

Health and Safety risk assessments

Health and Safety risk assessments are not normally required before participating in tutorials, exams, ceremonies, or committee meetings, except where individual circumstances place you, your unborn child or your baby at an increased risk.

If you are undertaking activities that may give rise to exposure to the hazards highlighted in Health and Safety Considerations section you will need a risk assessment to be carried out.

The staff member finalising the Health and Safety risk assessment is responsible for ensuring that you receive a copy of the risk assessment and for providing copies to relevant University staff on a strict need to know basis, to ensure appropriate measures are implemented.

Completed risk assessment forms containing personal information are handled confidentially in accordance with the requirements of our Data Protection Policy.

International Students

If you are an international student that requires a Visa to study in the UK, it is important that you contact the International Student Support team for advice if you become pregnant – isa@staffs.ac.uk

Parental Leave

Currently the maximum parental leave is two weeks. This must be taken within 56 days of the child/children being born/adopted. We would expect you to take parental leave immediately after the birth.

If you want to take parental leave, you must inform your Course Leader, Academic Mentor or a member of the Student Support and Wellbeing Team. Usually you must give at least 12 weeks’ notice of the date you wish to commence parental leave. We appreciate that emergency situations may arise – under these circumstances notice of parental leave must be given as soon as possible.

Potential implications of parental leave on completion of assessments, examinations, placements or work-based learning and group work should be discussed with the Course Leader, Academic Mentor or Student.

Support and Wellbeing staff

If you are an international student, please contact isa@staffs.ac.uk to discuss parental leave.

In the unfortunate case of Stillbirth, Neonatal death, Termination or Miscarriage, leave should be negotiated with Course Leader, Academic Mentor or Student Support and Wellbeing staff.

PhD Students

If you are a PhD student who has teaching responsibilities, then you will need to make contact with the HR department of the University in relation to maternity/adoption/paternity leave from teaching responsibilities and the Student Support and Wellbeing Team in relation to maternity/adoption/paternity leave from your studies.

Students on placement/Workplace Learning

If you are pregnant prior to commencing placement or become pregnant whilst on placement you should discuss implications of pregnancy (in relation to Health and Safety, course requirements, support needs etc.) with your Course Leader, Academic Mentor or other designated member of staff e.g. placement officer. If your partner is or you are undergoing fertility treatment, or going through the adoption process, you should also discuss the implications of this in terms of your placement, to ensure that a plan of action is agreed by all involved.

If you are in a workplace learning environment, (e.g. Apprentices) then you should discuss arrangements for a Health and Safety risk assessment with your employer. If you are required to undertake a placement as part of your course, the School should liaise with the placement provider to ensure a Health and Safety assessment is conducted by the organisation in which you will carry out your placement.

It is important that you discuss the implications of pregnancy, maternity and undertaking fertility treatment or adoption with your placement/ workplace supervisor/mentor, in order to negotiate and agree adjustments to working practices. Dependant on the nature of your placement/ workplace there will be some adjustments that realistically cannot be put into place due to the nature of the work being carried out including adjustments related to breast feeding, expressing and storing milk e.g. biomedical labs. In addition, it may not always be possible for you to take time away from your placement/workplace for appointments e.g. working shifts as part of a health placement or you are an apprentice. This applies to all students who undertake placements or workplace learning, including students who are undertaking awards at partner organisations.

Stillbirth, Neonatal death, Termination or Miscarriage

We appreciate that unfortunately there will be times when pregnancy does not go as planned, that continuing a pregnancy is not an option or that you have a miscarriage or where death may occur shortly after birth (neonatal death). We will consider the impact of these events on your ability to attend, meet deadlines and sit examinations. This includes if your partner has been affected and is also a student at Staffordshire University.

If you experience a miscarriage, stillbirth, or if your baby dies shortly after birth you will be entitled to the same length of parental leave, financial and wellbeing support as a student whose baby is not stillborn. Consideration should also be given to the partner of a student who experiences stillbirth or neonatal death.

You could also consider making an application for Exceptional Circumstances.

Surrogacy

If you are acting a surrogate parent, you will be supported in the same way as any other pregnant student.