It is important to note that the Equality Act 2010 lists pregnancy and maternity as one of the nine protected characteristics and prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy and maternity.
Under the Act, it is unlawful for universities to discriminate against applicants and students in relation to admissions; the provision of education; access to any benefit, facility, or service; and disciplinary proceedings.
Discrimination can occur against students because of pregnancy if:
A student is treated unfavourably because of their pregnancy
Within 26 weeks of the day of giving birth a student is treated unfavourably because they have given birth. This applies if the student gives birth; this also applies in cases of miscarriage, still birth and neonatal death provided more than 24 weeks of the pregnancy has passed.
A student is treated unfavourably because they are breastfeeding and the child is less than 26 weeks old; if the child is more than 26 weeks old, unfavourable treatment because of breastfeeding is likely to constitute sex discrimination.
A student whose partner is pregnant is protected by the Equality Act 2010 against discrimination by association on the grounds of sex. All students with a pregnant partner should be offered support regardless of their own sexual orientation or gender identity and that of their partners.
The University of Bath is mindful of its responsibilities to all students and will support students who become pregnant / a parent throughout their period of study or research. The University believes that becoming pregnant or caring for a child should not, in itself, prevent any student from succeeding in their studies. The University is committed to showing as much flexibility as possible to facilitate a student’s success, making sure no student is disadvantaged whilst maintaining high academic standards.
The health and safety of a pregnant student will be of paramount importance at all times, and staff will deal with all students in a sensitive, non-judgemental and confidential manner. It is important that you do not assume that all students will proceed with their pregnancy. Students need to be able to make choices and be provided with information without judgement or assumptions being made.
Only members of staff who need to be informed for valid reasons will be informed of a student’s circumstances and this will be done with the student’s prior consent. As part of the University’s health and safety duties, if there is a potential risk of harm to the unborn baby and/or student, then the University is required to undertake a H&S risk assessment and take actions to mitigate those risks. This is likely to require the involvement of Health and Safety experts within the University and notifying other relevant staff.
Notification of pregnancy/adoption
A student is likely to tell a staff member to whom they feel comfortable disclosing this information. The student has disclosed very personal information so respond sensitively. Check with the student if they have told their Director of Studies / Doctoral Supervisor, if not then encourage them to share this information and offer to help with this process. If the student is in distress then follow these guidelines: Supporting students in distress
At this point, the student might be considering their options about proceeding with the pregnancy. Students need to be able to make choices and be provided with information without judgment or assumptions being made. It might be appropriate to refer or signpost them to professional advice and support services, such as:
their GP or the University Medical Centre
Send a follow-up email to the student to reassure them that the university and department will support them and, if you have consent, copy in their Director of Studies / Supervisor. Include useful links for the student in the email, such as:
Their Director of Studies / Supervisor should then arrange a private meeting with the individual within five working days of notification. Your School or Department must provide staff with cover so you can hold this meeting.
Initial meeting and risk assessment
Use this meeting to reassure the student that the University is committed to ensuring that becoming pregnant or having a very young child should not be a barrier to applying for, starting and succeeding in a programme of study here. You, and colleagues, will help them understand any implications for continuing their studies and take reasonable actions to support this.
The student might still be considering their options. Encourage them to access professional advice and support (see above section). In the meantime, it is necessary to undertake a health and safety risk assessment. Advise the student to talk to their doctor or midwife about the nature of their course and ask for advice on any potential medical issues that could affect their pregnancy or studies.
It is required for the Department/School to undertake a health and safety risk assessment. This is particularly relevant for courses involving potentially high risks to the student and/or their unborn child - for example, laboratory-based courses using chemicals, or courses that require the use of machinery. Placements, fieldwork, study abroad and any clinical work may also require a risk assessment. You can get additional health and safety advice from Safety, Health and Employee Wellbeing via TopDesk.
If they decide to continue their studies while pregnant, then you will need to create a student support plan together. Send them the link to the template plan to consider and agree on an appropriate time to complete this together (probably after they have sought advice from their GP or midwife). The student might still be processing the fact that they are pregnant so give them time to think about the support plan and when they will feel ready to complete it.
Book a follow-up meeting with the student to check in with them.
Student Support Plan
The University has created a template support plan for departmental staff to work through with the student. This plan is designed to help the student and department consider and discuss any additional support or reasonable adjustments needed to support continuing study during the pregnancy or adoption process and beyond, and to provide a consistent approach across the University.
These might include:
assessment adjustments, IMCs, extensions or suspension of studies
informing other staff or students
adjustment to laboratory or class attendance
adjustment to placement/fieldwork/SYA arrangements
reasonable allowance for antenatal/adoption appointments
period of absence if required
a Health and Safety assessment
return to study arrangements
If they are a doctoral student there is a University policy on Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave policy for Research Students which covers parental leave options and the impact on stipends/funding.
Every pregnancy is different, and the diverse nature of our courses (UG, PGT & PGR), means that the arrangements which can and should be made for a student in these circumstances will vary. The support plan will be individual for each student and should be reviewed regularly.
You should continue to provide ongoing support to the student throughout the process. Regularly meet with the student to review the support plan and adjustments and make any required changes to arrangements.
Health & Safety: you will also need to update their risk assessment at key points, e.g., due to health changes during their pregnancy, before returning to study, and after they have returned.
Encourage them to request further meetings with the School or Department members if needed throughout their pregnancy. If there is a change in staffing and the student’s departmental contact (i.e., Director of Studies / Personal Tutor/ Supervisor) needs to change then make sure you let the student know and organise a handover.
If the student decides to suspend their studies
If altering the study conditions is not reasonably possible, or would not avoid any identified risks, the student may temporarily suspend their studies. Additional guidance is available:
The University will make every effort to ensure they are able to complete their programme of study.
Ensure you contact them ahead of their planned Return to Study to review the support plan and any changes to adjustments that could be required.
Support for students with a partner who is pregnant or adopting
It is not necessary to complete a support plan or risk assessment in these circumstances, but it is important to offer the student additional advice, support, and adjustments. For example:
Allow them to attend antenatal or pre-adoption appointments with their partner
Support them if their partner develops any complications with their pregnancy or a maternity-related illness
If their assessments or exams are impacted by the adoption date or partner’s due date or complications associated with the pregnancy, they may wish to consider making an application for a coursework extension or Individual Mitigating Circumstances.
- Student pregnancy and maternity: implications for higher education institutions | Advance HE
- Student Parents
- Getting advice if you are pregnant while studying or have a young child
- Childcare and parenting
If you have any questions about how you should support a student, or you need further guidance, please get in touch with Student Support Staff Advice. Contact us on 01225 38 4321 or email@example.com