Student maternity, paternity and adoption
The University of East London aims to provide support to their students who are new or prospective parents via their Student Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy. The aim of the University’s policy is to support students who become pregnant, their partners and those who have become parents through adoption; and make sure they are not treated less favourably or do not suffer a disadvantage as a result.
We understand that for some pregnant students, or those becoming parents, this can be overwhelming and stressful alongside trying to manage your studies.
Pregnancy is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. The University has a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are notified of the pregnancy, in order to help you balance your studies and manage your health during your time at the University of East London. The University implements similar practices as to what they would apply in the workplace. These adjustments are discussed and developed by their academic in collaboration with the student via a Maternity/Paternity and Adoption Support Plan (MPASP).
This requirement to make reasonable adjustments covers students while they are pregnant and up to 26 weeks after the birth. It also covers students who have experienced a still birth within the last 26 weeks. Sympathetic consideration will also be given to students who have experienced a miscarriage or termination of pregnancy.
I am pregnant. What should I do?
Once you have confirmed your pregnancy, you should let your course leader or academic adviser know. They should then invite you to a meeting to discuss your support needs and develop your MPASP (this can be found at appendix 1 of UEL’s Student Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Policy). The risk assessment and support plan will identify any risks associated with your course and will help co-ordinate support for you throughout your pregnancy, post birth and return to study. There will be discussion about your health and any impact pregnancy is likely to have on your studies. It will also be important to discuss the option of a study break and how this might impact completing your course.
We can appreciate that some students may not feel comfortable disclosing their pregnancy to their academics. You have the right not to disclose your pregnancy, but we would advise you do so. You will benefit from informing the University as they can then make certain provisions for you. They will not be able to provide you with additional support if they do not know that you need it.
As a student you are owed duty of confidentiality, so if you do decide to tell someone, they would respect your choice not to disclose to others. However, this might make it harder for the academic if they are trying to make sure that you get the best support possible. Where the agreement is made that they will disclose it to others, it would only be in line with those who need to know in order to assist in providing the additional support.
What should the Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Support Plan cover?
You and your course leader/academic adviser will go through the form together in your meeting which the academic will complete. You will be provided with a copy of the form and the academic will forward it on to other relevant staff members with your consent. This information will only be shared with those who need to be aware and your confidentiality will be respected.
While developing the MPASP the following are some of the topics which should be covered:
- Risk Assessment to identify risks to the student and if they can be removed or minimised.
- Antenatal care appointments dates and the impact of absence from classes as a result.
- The expected due date and how this may impact on attendance or submitting assessments.
- Whether the pregnancy is a high-risk pregnancy.
- Suitable reasonable adjustments that can be provided.
- Examinations/assessments and whether alternative assessments may be necessary.
- Whether the student wishes to consider taking a break from their studies and the implications this may have.
- Pregnancy related sickness and extenuation.
- Placement and field trip potential risks, whether it is safe to attend and if the course leader will need to contact the placement provider to discuss reasonable adjustments.
- Referral to certain UEL student support services (emotional, health, financial, immigration, academic)
- Discussion of any leave/break student will need to take (students cannot return to campus for two weeks after the birth) and proposed return to study plan, along with a timetable.
As your pregnancy progresses or if your circumstances change, it would be a good idea to check in with the academic who developed your plan to see whether the support that has been implemented is sufficient/still applicable.
Can I take a break during my pregnancy or after my baby is born?
You must not attend the university campus during the first two weeks after giving birth as per health and safety requirements. For this reason, it will be important to identify your expected due date during the development of your MPASP in case it takes place during your assessment periods.
You are entitled to take a study break of 6-12 months following the birth of your baby. This should be done in line with UEL’s Student Initiated Intermission and Withdrawal Policy.
You should be clear with your course leader/academic adviser about the fact that you wish to take a study break after the birth during your initial meeting so it can be incorporated into your plan. A study break can have financial and academic implications so it is important that you are clear on these before making your final decision. If you make the decision at a later stage, you should inform the staff member of this as soon as possible.
If you are an international student taking a break will impact on your student visa requirements so you should also speak to the University's International Student Advice team before making any decisions.
Not all students would want to take a break as they may be near to completing their academic year before they are due. Some students may wish to defer or interrupt their studies from the start or mid academic year. This will need to be carefully discussed alongside the requirements of the academic course and academic regulations. It is important to be clear about your needs, but please be aware that both your needs and course requirements will be considered before a decision is made. However, the University should always ensure that they do not indirectly or directly discriminate against the student and should try and be flexible when working with the student’s reasonable needs. If such request cannot be accommodated, then the student should be provided the reasons in writing for transparency.
My partner is pregnant, or I am an adoptive parent. What support is available to me?
The University will provide similar support to adoptive parents and the partners of pregnant students as they would to a pregnant student who gives birth to a child. This can include reasonable time off for appointments such as antenatal care, scans and perinatal appointments, or time off around when the baby is due.
The University also support the two-week paternity/parental leave enshrined within employment law, if a student requires this to support their family around this time. This extends to partners who are adopting a child or having a child through surrogacy. It is therefore important that students let their academic advisers or course leaders know about their intention to take leave.
Students will need to take their paternity leave within 56 days of the actual date of birth of the child. The two weeks do not have to be taken consecutively but will need to be taken in week-long blocks. If both parents/partners or adoptive parents are UEL students then both are eligible to take leave.
I’ve had a miscarriage or a still birth
Miscarriage If the miscarriage took place before the 24 week period, the student will still be entitled to support and the University state that these cases will be dealt with compassionately. It is recognised that those who miscarry will need some time off to recover. Some students will also be advised to seek bereavement counselling or therapy and could also be signed off sick during the recovery period.
The University understands that students may need to apply for extenuation during this period as studies may be impacted.
Stillbirth and neonatal birth The same support as above is given to mothers who have experienced a stillbirth or neonatal birth. The student should seek advice from their GP and, if they are comfortable to do so, discuss this with their academic adviser or course leader so they can be provided with the best available support.
I’m an international student and I am pregnant
Tier 4 international students who are pregnant should not suffer less favourable treatment from UK based students. However, although the University will try their best to support international students who are pregnant or prospective parents, they cannot override the visa restrictions imposed on student visas. It is likely that absences and time off taken from the course will have a far greater impact on international students than home students as a result of these restrictions. It is therefore important that these students seek advice from the the University's International Student Advice team as soon as possible. The ISA team help with visa applications and provide TIER 4 immigration advice and we encourage you contact them. This is particularly important for those students who are planning to take some time off. You may need to travel back home to have your baby, so this is something that also needs to be discussed.
I’m pregnant and need to apply for extenuating circumstances
Generally, simply being pregnant does not fall under the criteria for extenuating circumstances, as the disruption faced by a pregnant student or expectant parent should have been minimised by the adjustments laid out in the student’s Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Support Plan. However, if you are suffering from an unexpected pregnancy-related illness which has impacted on your studies (or, your baby is born before their expected due date) this could count as extenuation. You should say this in your application, along with how this has impacted on your studies. Your evidence should confirm that you have been experiencing this illness or that your baby came early and not simply confirm that you are pregnant.
Those who are planning to terminate their pregnancy do not have to disclose this information to their School and can simply say they were sick during this time. If they wish to claim extenuation however, they may need to divulge this information. They can simply state ‘sickness’ in their form, but evidence from a GP will be required. Please note that the extenuation panel is independent from your School and will not discuss your form with your School nor the reason you applied for extenuation.