Frequently asked questions on maternity, paternity and adoption policy

Introduction

The aim of UEL’s policy is to support students who become pregnant, their partners and those who have become parents through adoption, and ensure they are not treated less favourably or do not suffer a disadvantage as a result.

This page aims to consolidate this policy to help students and staff understand what their rights and responsibilities are.

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[1]. UEL implement similar practices as to what applies in the workplace.

UEL are fully aware of the Equality Challenge Unit[2] which provides information on how higher education institutions should deal with student pregnancies and new parents. They will ensure they discharge their legal responsibilities and prevent discrimination and unfairness during this process.

A student should inform their Academic Adviser/Course Leader when they first learn of their pregnancy. There is no obligation on the student to do so, however we believe that it would be in the best interest of the student. This is so that the necessary adjustments and support plan can be made and a risk assessment carried out.

It is said that students who are in the first trimester (13 weeks) are most at risk therefore we urge students to get earlier support from the university.

The university has a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are notified of the pregnancy, so they can help you balance studies and manage your health during your time at UEL.

The university states that the health and safety of the student is paramount, and confidentiality will be preserved as much as possible. 

 

The policy focuses on:

  • Students who become pregnant, adopted a child and those who wish to take maternity/paternity leave;
  • Preparation of MPSAP (support plans) at the earliest possible point;
  • Ensure support plans are delivered in an effective and timely manner;
  • Advice and support for those who have lost their baby or suffered miscarriage
  • Advice on maternity leave for PHD students who are in employment

 

Who is eligible?

  • Pregnant students[3]
  • New Parents
  • Students who have given birth within last 26 weeks
  • Parents of babies who have passed away within last 26 weeks
  • Cases of miscarriage will be dealt with compassionately

 

What type of support will be available?

  • A Support Plan which can help you manage your studies and health
  • Risk assessment which focuses on minimising any potential risk to your health
  • Student Support Services at UEL (Disability and Dyslexia Team and Student Health and Wellbeing, ISA)
  • Signposting to external support services
  • Reasonable adjustments - This will be weighed up with your academic studies and the support you require
  • Extenuating circumstances for pregnancy related illness 
  • Health and Safety information following birth of baby
  • Maternity related absence guidance
  • Financial advice/support from UEL SMART team
  • Study Break and return to study.
  • Reviewing support plans at certain stages of pregnancy

 

I am pregnant, who shall I inform and when?

When the student has seen their GP to confirm the pregnancy, they can disclose their pregnancy to the university as soon as they are ready to do so.

The student can inform course leader/Academic Adviser or Director of Studies/Dissertation supervisor if post-graduate students. Additionally, international students should also inform the International Student Advice team.

By now they may have had the first scan for which they may have missed classes. Any missed absence should be reported in the usual absence reporting policy:

https://www.uel.ac.uk/discover/governance/policies-regulations-corporate-documents/student-policies/attendance-monitoring[4]

 

I am not comfortable to discuss my pregnancy, paternity or adoptive parent matter with my tutor?

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. But that might be harder for the tutor if they are trying to ensure you get the best support possible.

The student has the right not to disclose their pregnancy, but we would say that you would likely benefit from informing the university as they can then make certain provisions for you.  Those who are planning to terminate their pregnancy do not have to disclose this information and can simply say they were sick during this time. If they wish to claim extenuation, they may need to divulge this information, but can simply state ‘sickness’ in their form, but evidence from a GP will be required. Please note that the extenuation panel is independent from the school and will not discuss your form with your school.

 

What process should be followed by the school when a student confirms pregnancy or childcare responsibilities?

The Academic Adviser/Course Leader will invite the student for a meeting to discuss a support plan and carry out a risk assessment[5].

The risk assessment and support plan will identify any risks associated with your course – this includes risks to you and your unborn child. It will help coordinate support for you throughout your pregnancy, post birth and return to study. See further information for what a support plan would cover below.

There will be discussion on your health and any impact pregnancy is likely to have on your studies. It is also important to discuss any implications that a study break will have (maternity leave for employees).

 

What does the Maternity Paternity and Adoption Support Plan cover?

The student and course leader will go through the form together which the adviser will complete. The student can be provided with the copy of the form, or consent to the academic adviser sending this to other relevant staff members. The Course leader will be fully aware of the confidentiality that she or he owes students.

Below is some of the discussions that will take place whilst conducting the MPASP:

  • Risk Assessment to identify risks and if they can be removed or minimised
  • Antenatal Care Appointments/Expected Due Date/High risk pregnancy
  • Suitable Reasonable Adjustments
  • Examinations and Assessments and Alternative Assessments
  • Break from Studies
  • Pregnancy Related Sickness and student’s welfare
  • Placement and Field Trips potential risks and whether it’s safe to attend and if Course Leader may need to contact placement provider to discuss reasonable adjustments
  • Referral to certain UEL student support services (emotional, health, financial, immigration, academic, housing)
  • Discussion of any leave/break student intends to take and proposed return to study plan along with a timetable

 

My circumstances have changed - what shall I do?

If your circumstances have changed in regards to your heath or whether you have changed your mind about something, please arrange a meeting with the Course Leader to discuss your support plan so that this can be updated.

You must inform your Course Leader if you are absent for a long period so they can support you where possible.

If you suffer from a miscarriage or still birth, it would be advisable to let your Course Leader know.

The same applies to those who are prospective adoptive parents.

Change of circumstances can be in relation to any situation that would impact on you and your studies.

 

Can I take a break during my pregnancy or after my baby is born?

You are entitled to take a student leave break following the birth of your baby. If you need to interrupt your studies during your academic year, this will need to be discussed with your Course Leader using the student initiated break and withdrawal policy.

You must not attend university during the first two weeks of giving birth as per health and safety requirements (or 4 weeks if you are a factory worker) (This should be discussed in your support plan)

You must make your plans clear to your Course Leader whilst drafting the support plan, as this can be incorporated in the form.

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 the 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[6] in accordance with the Equality Act and Health and Safety regulations.  If such request cannot be accommodated, then the student should be provided the reasons in writing for transparency.

 

Can I come back to university after birth?

You will not be able to come back to university for the first two weeks for health and safety reasons. This would have been part of your support plan.

If you do not come back after two weeks, please speak with your academic adviser to decide or update your support plan. In any case, this should have been arranged in the support plan. If you decide that you need a longer break, please speak with your Course Leader/academic adviser as soon as possible.

UEL’s maternity policy directs students to the student study break and withdrawal policy if they wish to take a break. However, it is strongly advised that students speak with their Course Leader or academic adviser to ensure they do not suffer any fee implications for going on a break.

A further risk assessment will need to be carried out if the student is returning to the university after birth.

 

I am overdue, what happens now?

You will need to provide evidence that it is safe for you to continue to attend university, although continuing to attend is not recommended, as you could be putting yourself and baby at risk.

 

I gave birth in advance of my due date which was not expected?

The expected date is only an estimate and there is no guarantee that you will give birth on the EDD.

Currently the university would say to complete an extenuation form as it meets the 3 criteria, unforeseeable, unforeseeable and unpreventable. However, we would suggest you seek advice from your academic adviser or the staff member who completed your support plan so this can be updated and discussed further.

You must remember the health and safety regulations that you cannot attend the university for the first two weeks off giving birth. You can always submit the form via  thehub@uel.ac.uk.

You can find out more information on making a claim here.

 

I want to come back from my maternity break part time or distance learning, what shall I do?

These options may have been discussed in your study support plan. If not, then you can make a ‘request’ to change your study mode to either part time or distance learning. The request should not be unreasonably refused by the Course Leader unless they are able to justify their decision. Prior to your return date, a meeting is recommended with your Course Leader to discuss any potential changes. You can always get in touch with your Course Leader via email. 

 

I am suffering from complications in my pregnancy and I may miss my deadlines, what can I do?

Please note that extenuation may not be granted, simply because you are pregnant. There normally needs to be a pregnancy related illness or complication. Some pregnancies are considered high-risk and some students may be prone to more issues than others.

We understand that not all pregnancy related sickness is reported to a doctor. However, for extenuation, the university would require some form of evidence. It is therefore important to tell your GP why you are asking for evidence. Students can always report their pregnancy symptoms by booking a telephone appointment with their GP which may be easier than waiting for a one to one booking. Midwives can also provide letters regarding your sickness as they would most probably have a record in your maternity folder.

You can apply for extenuation in the normal way. Please find more information about how to do so here.

 

What evidence do I need before preparation of my support plan?

Expectant mothers, fathers/partners

• Any letters indicating GP/Midwife, Antenatal or Hospital Appointments.

• A MATB1 Certificate (provided to a pregnant woman after their 20 week scan).

• Any medical evidence indicating their expected date of delivery (EDD).

• Any reasonable proof of relationship for fathers/partners that are unmarried or in Civil Partnership.

Adoptive parents

• Proof of adoption can be provided through a birth certificate but UEL remains open to any reasonable proof of relationship for eligibility purposes.

• Evidence of any adoption-related dates that will affect attendance or ability to study.

Surrogacy

Any evidence that the process is taking place and when the surrogate is due to give birth

I have a MPASP in place, but my circumstances have changed?

We understand that situations can change during the pregnancy, and students may change their mind in certain matters i.e. study breaks, reasonable adjustments, health etc.

Please contact the person who wrote your support plan and arrange to see them to further discuss the changes.

It is good practice to review how the student is doing as the pregnancy progresses

What support is available in the event of a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal birth?[7]

Miscarriage

If the miscarriage took place before the 24 weeks, 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 and will be supported by NHS miscarriage team for a certain period. 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 is aware that students may need to apply for extenuation during this period as studies may be impacted.

Stillbirth and Neonatal Birth.

The same support which is given to mothers who have not suffered from the above will be given to those who have lost babies during or after birth. The student should seek advice from their GP and discuss this with their Academic Adviser or Course Leader so they can be provided with the best available support.

 

I am pregnant after a miscarriage, neonatal, or still birth, what shall I do?

Those who suffer the above and get pregnant again usually would be considered as a high-risk pregnancy. They are likely to have more appointments (antenatal and scans) and some may be referred to a perinatal clinic if they suffer from mental health during pregnancy of after.

It is therefore important that such student inform their academic advisers or Course Leaders so they can be provided with ample support. It will also have to be documented that the student will be attending more appointments then a minimal risk pregnant student.

 

What support is available to me as my partner is pregnant?

The university will provide support to you in a similar way as expected mothers and adoptive parents. This can include reasonable time off for appointments such as antenatal care, scans, perinatal appointments or time off around when the baby is due.

The university also support the two-week paternity plan enshrined within employment law, and a student require this to support his/her 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.

If the student whose partner is pregnant cannot submit work or sit an exam due to any unexpected situations within the pregnancy, they should be able to apply for extenuation. The student should not be disadvantaged and careful consideration will be given by the university to avoid any form of discrimination taking place.

It is important that the student seek advice from the student union if they are unsure.

If you are a student in employment or had a PHD funded degree, you may be entitled to pay maternity or paternity leave. Please discuss this with your employers for further advice and guidance.

 

I am a father or adoptive parent, what rights do I have?

Students who adopt children have the similar rights as those who give birth to children. This includes attending hospital appointments and taking paternity/adoption leave for 2 weeks.

Student fathers are entitled to paternity leave in line with the employment law legislation.

 

I am an international student who is pregnant or just given birth, will this affect my student visa?

Tier 4 international students who are pregnant should not suffer less favourable treatment from UK based students. However, although university will try their best to support these students they cannot override the visa restrictions imposed on student visas. It is important therefore that students seek advice from the International Student Advice Team in such circumstances at http://www.uel.ac.uk/isa/.

We understand that 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. The student may need to travel back home to have their baby so this is something that also needs to be discussed.

Further information can be found on the Home Office website on TIER 4 Visas.

 

Can I travel whilst pregnant?

There is nothing stopping a student from travelling whilst they are pregnant, unless the doctor does not give medical clearance to do so.

However, we urge that students seek medical advice from their GP before booking a travel date. The student should also double check with their airlines regarding health and safety and if they allow heavily pregnant customers to travel during this time. The student can find more information here regarding any restrictions they may face if travelling.

 

My baby arrived earlier then my expected due date, what should I do?

The NHS state that babies who are born prior to 37 weeks are considered premature. If your baby arrives unexpectedly, you must inform your Course Leader about this. They can then update your support plan and ensure that this is placed on record to avoid any absence issues. They may ask you to complete an extenuation form if you missed any deadlines as a result of the birth and time off for post recovery.

You will not be able to attend university for the first two weeks of the birth due to health and safety. However, you must inform your Course Leader at some point on what you intend to do.

Students should also seek medical opinion at this time on whether it is safe for the student to continue to attend classes.

It is noted that students who have C-section have a longer recovery period.

It is the student’s choice on what they intend to do and it is in the student’s best interest to keep their Course Leaders informed.

 

I am pregnant and worried about sitting my exams, is there any support I can receive?

Yes, you can receive support and this needs to be discussed with your Course Leader at the earliest opportunity. You may be able to get regular breaks and sit in a separate room from other students who are not pregnant. The university should also be able to provide you with a suitable chair to make the exam experience as comfortable as possible. During summer, it can get hot so students can ask to sit in a cooler room if required.

You can also discuss this with the Disability and Dyslexia Team who have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for students, where reasonably practical. 

 

Can I get financial support as an expectant mother, father, or adoptive parent?

Students may be entitled to welfare benefits which they may not need to pay back as opposed to student loans. The Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART) can be contacted via the hub to discuss any welfare benefit/grant entitlements.

The SMART team should also be able to inform you whether you are entitled to any child credit once your baby is born.

Please note that the welfare benefits may only be relevant for UK based students. Any international or EU students should ask what they can receive and may have to speak to their sponsors for any advice. They can still seek advice from SMART team so they are fully aware of their options.

Additionally, all students who wish to take breaks during their studies must seek advice in relation to fee implications. It is important that this is done so that students are not disadvantaged for taking a break. SMART is most likely to liase with SFE so they can try and resolve any potential issues.

Students who are employed may be entitled to maternity allowance or adoption allowance. They should speak to their local job centre to seek advice on this. Further information can be found on the government website.

Students who have become first time mothers may be entitled to a grant called ‘sure start’ so should speak with their local job centre for more information.

 

UEL Support Services

Below are the support services that UEL offer.

Reasonable adjustments and long-term health conditions

Disability and Dyslexia Team

https://www.uel.ac.uk/undergraduate/student-support/disability

Mental health support, counselling and general health matters

Student Wellbeing Team

https://uelac.sharepoint.com/StudentSupport/Pages/Health-And-Wellbeing.aspx

Financial support, advice and welfare benefits and financial implications

Student Money Advice and Rights Team (SMART)

https://uelac.sharepoint.com/StudentSupport/Pages/Money-Advice-and-Rights.aspx

Immigration advice, such as Tier 4 visas

International Student Advice Team

http://www.uel.ac.uk/isa/ 

Academic advice on extenuation, study breaks, complaints, housing

UEL Students’ Union

http://www.uelunion.org/advice

Free legal advice (employment, family, contract and consumer law and welfare benefits advice)

Law Clinic

https://www.uel.ac.uk/schools/royal-docks/law-clinic

Childcare

Children’s Garden (UEL nursery)

http://www.uel.ac.uk/nursery/ 

 

External support (outside UEL)

Direct Gov

www.direct.gov.uk

Family Planning Association                      

www.fpa.org.uk                   

Marie Stopes

www.mariestopes.org.uk

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas)

www.bpas.org/bpaswoman

Brook

www.brook.org.uk

The Miscarriage Association

www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk

Still Birth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS)

www.uk-sands.org 

 

National Health Service

www.nhs.gov.uk

www.nus.org.uk

Newham Talking Therapies https://www.nelft.nhs.uk/services-talking-therapies

Adoption UK www.adoptionuk.org.uk

Citizens Advice

Law Centres

 

 

Possible Welfare Benefits

It may be worth consulting your local Job Centre to seek advice on the below:

  • Sure Start Maternity Grant
  • Funeral Expenses Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credits

 

Parking suspension

Students who have suffered a bereavement may also be able to get a parking suspension on their road for guests to visit. Please consult your local council to discuss this.

 

Full policy

Student maternity, paternity and adoption policy

 

External links/references

 

[1] Both maternity and paternity is covered under Section 17 (1)(c) of the Equality Act/ Also Part 6 chapter 2.  The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on the following protected characteristics including: pregnancy and maternity; age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

[2] The Equality Challenge Unit is a charity that works to support equality and diversity with the higher education spectrum. Link: https://www.ecu.ac.uk/casestudies/student-maternity-policies/

[3] Undergraduates, postgraduates, PHD students, distance learning students

[4] Submitting the Absence Form means that UEL are kept informed of your situation and can take your individual circumstances into consideration.  It also helps UEL to identify whether you have any support requirements so that they can signpost you to support services as appropriate. 

[5] http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/faqs.htm What is a risk assessment? Workers (and anyone else who could potentially be affected by their work) have a right to be protected from harm. A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of the harm which could be caused through any work activity. This helps employers check whether appropriate control measures are in place, or if they need to do more to prevent harm. If any significant risks are identified, then the risk assessment must include an assessment of such risk. Any significant findings from the assessment should be written down if you employ five or more people and this can then be used to help manage workplace risks and communicate them to employees.

[6] http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1616  Employers are legally obligated to deal with flexible working requests in a reasonable manner. They should provide reasons for refusing a request.

[7]  https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/miscarriage-stillbirth-and-neonatal-death-your-rights-at-work/ Under the law, if your baby is born dead before the 24th week of pregnancy, it is called a miscarriage. If your baby is born dead after the beginning of the 24th week of pregnancy it is called a stillbirth. You will get a certificate of stillbirth; this is the evidence you can use when getting support/adjustments from the university.