Childbirth Accommodation and Parental Leave

As of September 1, 2018, MIT graduate students have access (according to eligibility) to two different leaves when they give birth or undertake significant responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them: Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave. Prior to September 1, 2018, only Childbirth Accommodation is in effect. Students must initiate planning with their department; the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) provides final review and approval. Please see “Approval” below for details. See also Parental Leave and Childbirth Accommodation FAQ.

Definition and eligibility

Childbirth Accommodation (currently in effect) is structured as a leave for up to two months from academic and research work for eligible graduate students. A full-time, registered graduate student is eligible for Childbirth Accommodation if they have recently given birth (is a “birth parent”). It does not apply to adoption or to non-birth parents. Birth parents are also eligible for Parental Leave.

Parental Leave (effective September 1, 2018) is structured as a one-month leave from academic and research work for eligible graduate students who have significant responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them through adoption, foster care, or court order. A full-time, registered graduate student in one of the following categories is eligible for Parental Leave:

  • A student who has recently given birth (“birth parent”) and retains custody of the child; note that this policy effectively provides a one-month extension to Childbirth Accommodation for an eligible birth parent, bringing the total accommodation to three months
  • A student who is a non-birth parent with significant responsibility for the care of the newborn child(ren); this includes a non-birth parent caring for a child born by surrogacy
  • A student who adopts or fosters a child under the age of 18 (or a child under the age of 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled)
  • A student who has a child under the age of 18 (or a child under the age of 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled) placed with them pursuant to a court order.

If each parent is an MIT graduate student during the first six months of new parenthood, then each is eligible for Parental Leave.

Accommodations

Childbirth Accommodation and Parental Leave can each provide two types of support: academic and financial.

Academic

An approved leave will stop the academic and research clocks with regard to assignments due, reports anticipated, or other class and research related requirements. The leave is intended to give a birth parent time to recover from childbirth, and for all parents to enable adjustment to parenthood 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. Faculty should make arrangements with the student to submit work for completion of requirements when the student returns. If it is necessary for make-up work to extend beyond the end of term, a grade of “O” should be assigned by the instructor, and the student should consult with their departmental graduate administrator and the Office of Graduate Education to convert the “O” grade to an “OX” (excused).  Grades of “incomplete” would not be appropriate if the leave is the sole reason for an extended deadline.

Financial

During the approved period of leave, students supported by an RA or TA appointment will continue to receive the benefits of their academic appointment (tuition, stipend, and health insurance, if applicable). Students supported by fellowship funding will continue to receive the benefits of their fellowship (tuition, stipend, and/or health insurance; see “Fellowships” below). Students who are self-funded are not eligible for tuition or stipend funding under these leaves. See the funding sections below for details. Responsibility for funding the approved leave resides at the level of the academic department, unless otherwise instructed by the respective School Dean’s Office.

Duration and start date

For Childbirth Accommodation, a student anticipating childbirth may choose the consecutive length (up to two months) of their accommodation via the Parental Leave and Childbirth Accommodation Request Form. The planned start date will be the anticipated date of birth. In cases where childbirth occurs prior to filing the petition, the leave will start on the actual date of childbirth.

For Parental Leave, the duration is one consecutive (uninterrupted) month of leave. The leave must be taken within the first six months of becoming a parent. A student anticipating leave may choose the start date as long as the leave is completed within this six-month period. As noted, a birth parent may choose to take Parental Leave following Childbirth Accommodation for a total leave of three months. If the student is seeking leave for the birth, adoption, or placement of more than one child (e.g., birth of twins, multiple adoption), then the student may request one month of leave for each child. However, stipend support will only extend to one month of Parental Leave in any six-month period; in this case, the student will continue to receive tuition support (and health insurance, if included in the original financial appointment), but additional stipend will not be paid after the first month of Parental Leave (see Scenario B in the FAQ for an example).

Funding

RA and TA appointments

For the period of leave – whether Childbirth Accommodation, Parental Leave, or both – stipend payments will be made at the rate used in the existing RA or TA appointment. The payment will be prorated appropriately for students with partial appointments. Other components of the RA or TA (tuition, and health insurance, if applicable) will not be affected by the leave. For Childbirth Accommodation, tuition and stipend will be paid from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. For Parental Leave, responsibility for funding resides at the level of the academic department unless otherwise instructed by the respective School Dean’s Office.

Fellowships

Fellowships from sources internal to MIT are not interrupted during a Childbirth Accommodation or Parental Leave period, and will be paid from their original source. Students who are supported by fellowships from sources external to MIT are subject 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 leave period, and appropriate documentation is provided by the student, the student will be eligible for substitute payment at the existing level of support. In the case of a substitute payment for Childbirth Accommodation, all elements of the financial award will be paid from the Childbirth Accommodation Fund. For Parental Leave, responsibility for funding resides at the level of the academic department, unless otherwise instructed by the respective School Dean’s Office.

Self-support

Students who are not supported by RA or TA assignments or by fellowships will receive the academic accommodations of a leave, but will not receive financial support. Tuition and fees will still apply.

Process

The student must initiate conversations to plan for the leave period (see “Anticipating the Leave Period,” below), then complete and review the Parental Leave and Childbirth Accommodation Request Form with the graduate administrator in their home academic department. Once reviewed by the department, the student should submit the Request Form with appropriate documentation to the Office of Graduate Education, which grants final approval. See “Approval” below for details.

Anticipating the leave period

The student is strongly encouraged to start conversations about a possible leave with department administrators and advisors approximately five months before they expect to give birth or undertake significant responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them, with a minimum of two months prior to the expected start of the leave. If the minimum of two months’ notice is not possible, the student should contact their graduate administrator to explain the circumstances. This planning period will permit the department and the student to consider together:

  • options for alternative coverage for TA assignments during the period of anticipated leave
  • plans for time-sensitive research presentations or reports
  • plans for completing any required coursework in order to receive a grade for course completion
  • other issues of importance (e.g., field work, doctoral qualifying examinations, publication deadlines, or other milestones in the student’s program)
  • reasonable allowances for work flexibility leading up to the expected start date of the leave.

Additionally, international students are strongly advised to discuss the intended leave period with the International Students Office (ISO) at the beginning of the planning period (see “International Students,” below).

Approval

Approval of a Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave is granted by the Office of Graduate Education. The leave is granted to graduate students who satisfy the eligibility requirements above, who initiate planning within the department prior to the expected start date, and who submit appropriate documentation.

All students must submit the Parental Leave and Childbirth Accommodation Request Form; additionally:

  • A birth parent anticipating the birth of a child should submit a brief statement by their medical service provider with a best estimate of the delivery date, unless this document is already on file with the OGE.
  • A non-birth parent anticipating the birth of a child should submit a brief statement by the birth parent’s medical service provider with a best estimate of the delivery date; the student should also certify that they will have significant responsibility for the care of the child(ren) on the Parental Leave and Childbirth Accommodation Request Form.
  • A student adopting or fostering a child should provide evidence of adoption or foster care, as applicable.
  • A student who has a child placed with them pursuant to a court order should provide a copy of the court order.

If a student wishes to appeal a leave request which has been denied, the student should contact the Vice Chancellor.

Continuation of services

Students approved for Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave retain access to on-campus medical facilities and eligibility for health insurance coverage, provided that appropriate tuition and health insurance fees have been paid for the term in which leave is anticipated.

Students residing on campus and approved for Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave can remain in campus housing provided that appropriate rent and fees have been paid for the period.

International students

For international students, the policy is intended to allow for the maintenance of full-time student status, and a student’s current visa status, provided the coursework for the term is completed following the leave period. However, international students are strongly advised to discuss the intended leave 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 (such as full-time enrollment and any possible impact on expected program completion date) and 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 and/or Parental Leave cannot be required by TA supervisors to engage in any ongoing duties as a condition of the leave.

The student should recognize that it may not be feasible to return to a TA assignment after the leave period; in this event, an alternative funding source will be identified by the department. It is critical that a student with a TA assignment give as much notice as possible in order to provide coverage for the work and identification of funding sources. Departments are encouraged to make reasonable efforts on behalf of the student.

Notification

Upon approval of the Childbirth Accommodation and/or Parental Leave, the Office of Graduate Education will confirm the leave with the student’s department and will notify the International Students Office (if the student is international) of the period of time for which the leave has been granted.

It is the student’s responsibility to work with faculty and department administrators, to make arrangements for course completion, and to continue research activities before and after the leave period. Students may contact their graduate administrator for guidance on this process. International students are strongly advised to consult the ISO and must ensure continued compliance with current immigration regulations.