Graduate Policies & Procedures

Childbirth accommodation (“Maternity leave”)

Applicability: This policy applies to any full-time, registered graduate student woman.   It is limited to women who anticipate giving birth and does not apply to adoption or to men in support of their wives or partners during childbirth.

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

Accommodations: A student anticipating childbirth is eligible for Childbirth Accommodation, and may choose a period of one month, one and a half months, or two months. Normally, the accommodation period begins on the date specified in a petition filed with and approved by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education; or in cases wherein childbirth occurs prior to filing the petition, on the actual date of childbirth.

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 appointments, the Fund payment will replace the tuition and stipend normally distributed from the research account from which the student has been supported. For TA appointments, only the stipend component will be paid from the Fund, and the student will not be responsible for the TA tuition component.

Students who are supported by fellowships internal to MIT normally have their stipend paid as monthly payments. Students supported in this manner and approved for the leave are not entitled to additional payments from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund.

Students supported by fellowships funded externally are expected to adhere to rules and regulations of the granting agency with respect to leaves from academic and research work. The fellowships and grants administrator in the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education can assist in discussions with federal, foundation, and corporate fellowship providers (for example, the National Science Foundation, Hertz Foundation, or Ford Motor Company, among others). If the organization providing the fellowship requires suspension of fellowship benefits during the Childbirth Accommodation period, and appropriate documentation is obtained by the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, the student will be eligible for substitute payment from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund.

Normally, 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. Otherwise, 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.

Departments should take appropriate steps to support students with regard to assignments and program milestones. Departments should be sensitive to the potential impact of the period on the visa status of international students, and should consult with the International Students Office when working with a student who is planning an accommodation period due to childbirth.

Students who are not supported by RA or TA assignments 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 departmental 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 in the term anticipated for delivery
  • 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 Dean for Graduate Education.

Approval: Approval of Childbirth Accommodation is granted by the Dean for Graduate Education, after appropriate consultation with the student’s department. Normally, the accommodation is granted to eligible women 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: Approval of Childbirth Accommodation retains the student’s access to on-campus medical facilities and does not affect eligibility for outside hospitalization benefits, provided that appropriate tuition and health insurance fees have been paid for the term in which delivery is anticipated.

Normally, students residing on campus and approved for Childbirth Accommodation can remain in the residence hall, as appropriate for the specific hall.

For international students, the policy is intended to maintain full-time student status and should not otherwise affect a student’s current visa status. The accommodation is intended to enable childbirth and subsequent return to classes and research in as seamless a manner as possible. However, international students should discuss the intended accommodation period with the International Students Office at the beginning of the planning period specified above, to identify and address proactively any individual or unique visa issues and/or to consider the latest applicable regulations.

Continued TA Service: Students who will be temporarily leaving TA assignments are permitted to consider some limited ongoing duties (e.g., grading, preparing course materials, or other non-intensive duties). Such services 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. In this regard, 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, however, departments should consult with the Dean for Graduate Education about the availability of assistance for the remainder of the relevant term.

Stipend payments: 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.

Notification: Upon notification of the impending or actual childbirth by the student and the student’s physician, the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education 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 with departmental administrators to make arrangements for course completion and for continuation of research activities before and following the period. International students are advised to ensure their continued compliance with current immigration regulations as they plan for the period.

Final documents related to the accommodation and the individual arrangements shall be filed with the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education.