Childbirth accommodation (“Maternity leave”)

Childbirth accommodation is structured as a leave from academic and research work for eligible graduate students who have recently given birth.

Eligibility

This policy applies to full-time, registered graduate students who anticipate giving birth, and does not apply to adoption or to those in support of their wives or partners during childbirth.

The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) administers the policy through the petition process. This petition does not require departmental approval but is reviewed and approved by the OGE. Please see “Approval” below for details.

Accommodations

The Childbirth Accommodation policy can provide two types of support: academic and financial.

  • Academic: Approval of Childbirth Accommodation will stop the academic and research clocks with regard to assignments due, reports anticipated, or other class and research related requirements. Faculty are expected and encouraged to make arrangements with the student to submit work for completion of requirements when the student returns. Where appropriate, “O” and “OX” grades can be assigned. In most cases, grades of “Incomplete” would not be appropriate. The accommodation is intended to enable childbirth and subsequent return to classes and research, in as seamless a manner as possible. Departments should take appropriate steps to support students with regard to assignments and program milestones.
  • Financial: During the approved period of accommodation, students supported by an RA or TA appointment will receive a stipend that is paid from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. Students who are not supported by RA or TA are not normally eligible for tuition or stipend funding from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. See the funding sections below for details.

A student anticipating childbirth may choose the length (one, one-and-a-half, or two months) and start date of their accommodation via the petition form. Additional time may be offered by individual departments. In cases where childbirth occurs prior to filing the petition, the leave will start on the actual date of childbirth.

Funding

  • RA and TA appointments: For the approved period of accommodation, students supported by an RA or TA appointment will receive a stipend that is paid from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. The payment will be prorated appropriately for students with partial appointments. For RA and TA appointments, the Fund payment will replace the tuition and stipend normally distributed from the account from which the student has been supported. For the period of accommodation, stipend payments for supported students will be made from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund at the rate used in the existing RA or TA appointment, if the rate is within an approved range set annually by the Institute. If the student’s existing stipend rate exceeds the approved stipend range, the student receives the maximum approved rate during the accommodation period. If the student’s existing stipend rate falls below the approved stipend range, then the student continues to receive that stipend and not a higher one.
  • Fellowships: Fellowships from sources internal to MIT are normally not interrupted during a Childbirth Accommodation period. Therefore, students supported in this manner and approved for the leave are not entitled to additional payments from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. Students who are supported by fellowships from sources external to MIT are expected to adhere to rules and regulations of the granting agency with respect to leaves from academic and research work. The Manager of Graduate Fellowships in the OGE can assist in discussions with fellowship providers . If the organization providing the fellowship requires suspension of fellowship benefits during the Childbirth Accommodation period, and appropriate documentation is obtained by the OGE, the student will be eligible for substitute payment from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund.
  • Self support: Students who are not supported by RA or TA assignments or by fellowships may petition to take advantage of a Childbirth Accommodation period, but are not entitled to tuition or stipend funding from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund.

Anticipating the Accommodation Period

To begin planning for the accommodation period, the student is strongly encouraged to initiate conversations with advisors and department administrators approximately five months prior to anticipated childbirth. This planning period will permit the department and the student to consider together:

  • the advisability of and alternatives for a TA assignment during the term anticipated for childbirth
  • plans for time-sensitive research presentations or reports
  • other issues of importance (e.g., field work, doctoral qualifying examinations, publication deadlines, or other milestones in the student’s program)

Normally, the length of the accommodation period will be decided in consultation with the OGE.

Approval

Approval of Childbirth Accommodation is granted by the OGE after appropriate consultation with the student’s department. Normally, the accommodation is granted to eligible graduate students who have submitted a petition and appropriate documentation of anticipated childbirth (consisting of a brief statement by the student’s medical service provider with a best estimate of the delivery date) and who have initiated planning within the department prior to delivery.

Continuation of Services

Students approved for Childbirth Accommodation retain access to on-campus medical facilities and eligibility for outside hospitalization benefits, provided that appropriate tuition and health insurance fees have been paid for the term in which childbirth is anticipated.
Normally, students residing on campus and approved for Childbirth Accommodation can remain in campus housing, as appropriate for the specific residence.

For international students, the policy is intended to maintain full-time student status and should not otherwise affect a student’s current visa status. However, international students should discuss the intended accommodation period with the International Students Office (ISO) at the beginning of the planning period specified above. Students should work with the ISO to identify and address any visa issues or to consider the latest applicable regulations.

Special Considerations for TA Assignments

Students who are supported by a TA and who will be on Childbirth Accommodation are permitted to consider some limited ongoing duties (e.g., grading, preparing course materials, or other non-intensive duties). Such duties cannot be required by TA supervisors as a condition of the accommodation; and, if agreed upon at all, should be negotiated sensitively with the student’s needs in mind.

The student should recognize that it may not be feasible to return to a TA assignment after the Childbirth Accommodation period, and should work with her department proactively to make alternative arrangements for ongoing support. Departments are encouraged to make reasonable efforts on behalf of the student, but are not required to continue salary payments if arrangements cannot be made. With appropriate advance planning, such circumstances should be rare. When they occur, departments should consult with the Office of Graduate Education about the availability of assistance for the remainder of the relevant term.

Notification

Upon notification of the impending or actual childbirth by the student and the student’s physician, the OGE will notify relevant department and central administrative offices that Childbirth Accommodation has been approved and the dates for which the period has been granted. It is the student’s responsibility to work with faculty and department administrators, to make arrangements for course completion, and for continuation of research activities before and following the period. International students are advised to notify the ISO and ensure continued compliance with current immigration regulations.

Final documents related to the accommodation and the individual arrangements must be filed with the OGE.