Graduate Student Parental Leave Policy

Regarding leave period, tuition, stipend support, health benefits, TA/RA support, and time-to-degree extensions

APPROVED FOR: August 1, 2019

Purpose and Exclusions

The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate Student Parental Leave Policy (regarding leave period, tuition, stipend support, health benefits, TA/RA support, and time-to-degree extensions) is designed to assist a full-time graduate student, who is a primary childcare provider, immediately1 following the birth or adoption of a child. It is designed to maintain the student's full-time, registered student status, and facilitate return to full participation in coursework and, where applicable, research and teaching in a seamless manner.

This policy does not cover all situations associated with birth and adoption. For example, it is not intended to cover medical complications associated with pregnancy or birth. Furthermore, it is not intended to limit any rights available to students who are primarily classified as UNC-Chapel Hill employees and therefore may be eligible for other benefits as described in the related policies referenced toward the end of this document.

Eligibility

Eligible graduate students are those anticipating a birth or adoption who are currently full-time students in a graduate degree program and who have been full-time graduate students for at least one academic semester at the time parental leave is taken.2

Provisions

Eligible graduate students, once approved, will receive the following:

Planning

Eligible students should initiate discussions with their course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators at least eight (8) weeks prior to the anticipated birth or adoption. This advance notice will provide the lead time necessary to: discuss coursework completion; rearrange teaching duties for those students supported by teaching assistantships (TAs); and/or adjust laboratory or other research schedules for those students supported by research assistantships (RAs). These discussions are especially important for managing expectations and responsibilities before and following the leave period.

This planning period should also be used to reach agreement on a timeline for academic matters (e.g., Ph.D. qualifying examinations and other academic milestones, field work, time-sensitive research reports on sponsored projects) that will be affected by the birth or adoption of a child and/or by the one-academic semester extension of academic requirements.

In cases where there are complexities or complications with the anticipated birth or adoption such that timing is unknown and/or may need to be adjusted, it is important that the student apprise their course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators accordingly in order to determine whether and how flexibility may be available given coursework-, teaching-, and/or research-related responsibilities. Furthermore, it is critical that the student keep these individuals updated as the situation and timing changes.

Students who will be temporarily leaving TA assignments should notify the appropriate program chair as soon as practicable, but no later than eight (8) weeks prior to the anticipated start date of the leave to allow sufficient time to find an appropriate replacement. It is the program’s responsibility to arrange for a substitute TA for the leave period. The student on parental leave will be expected to return to their teaching assignment at the conclusion of the leave, barring further leave approved under other applicable policies. Students who are unable to return to school following leave under this policy may be eligible for additional leave under other related policies referenced toward the end of this document.

For an international student, this policy is intended to allow them to maintain full-time student status so there is no adverse impact on their current visa status. However, an international student should discuss the intended leave period with the International Student and Scholar Services office at the beginning of the planning period in order to identify and address proactively any individual or unique visa issues and/or to consider the latest applicable regulations.

Coursework

Students should contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance office for reasonable academic accommodations related to coursework available under the Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants.

The Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants affords reasonable academic accommodations related to pregnancy and defined related medical conditions to the extent that such accommodations would not result in a fundamental alteration of the academic program or impose an undue burden on the University. Arrangements related to coursework outside of accommodations provided under the Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants should be discussed directly with the student’s faculty.

Approval and Notification

The Associate Dean for Student Affairs in The Graduate School grants approval of parental leave after review of the student’s application and documentation, and notice to the student’s program. The student’s request for leave under this policy must be submitted no later than eight (8) weeks prior to the anticipated beginning of parental leave.

The leave will be granted to eligible graduate students who have submitted an application and appropriate documentation of anticipated birth or adoption. This process must include written certification from a health care provider and written permission by the graduate student stating that an official of the University may contact the certifying health care provider, if needed.

In the case of adoption, the request for leave must be accompanied by certification of child adoption, as well as written permission by the graduate student stating that an official of the University may contact the certifying individual, if needed.

Upon approval of Parental Leave, The Graduate School will notify the relevant program(s) (and central administrative offices, if applicable) that a Parental Leave has been approved and the dates for which the leave has been granted. It is the student’s responsibility to communicate with their program while on leave, and work with their course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators on arrangements for course completion and continuation of research and teaching activities before and following the leave period as indicated above.

Support

Those graduate students supported by fellowships, teaching assistantships (TAs), and/or research assistantships (RAs) will be excused from their regular TA and/or RA duties for the leave period during which they will continue to receive financial support.

Most graduate students who receive a teaching assistantship as part of their support package should be able to arrange the timing of teaching assignments to accommodate birth or adoption. During the leave period, students supported by teaching assistantships may choose to continue in some limited capacity (e.g., grading, preparing course materials, or other non-intensive duties), but cannot be required to do so. Under most circumstances, a combination of sources (e.g., the Office of the Provost, The Graduate School) will provide the necessary funding to cover TA responsibilities during the leave period, and The Graduate School will communicate with the relevant program(s) accordingly.

With advance planning, most graduate students who receive a research assistantship as part of their support package can similarly adjust research activities to accommodate birth or adoption. Most granting agencies defer to the policies of the academic institution to provide for a short period of reduced activity due to health or personal issues.

Minimum Standards

The Parental Leave Policy establishes minimum standards for support during a leave associated with birth or adoption. Any support beyond the minimum outlined here should be provided without regard to the student’s sex or gender, pursuant to the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct and Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants. New parents, for their part, need to keep the lines of communication open with their academic programs and demonstrate to their advisors that they are academically engaged and making progress on coursework and research, even if it is at a somewhat slower pace than prior to the birth or adoption.

The Parental Leave Policy is intended to support — not replace — the open communication and goodwill that should characterize the relationship between students, course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Related Policies, Processes, and Procedures

Frequently Asked Questions

I just found out that I am birthing or adopting a child. What should I do first?

There are so many offices and resources on campus. What offices should I contact?

What is the difference between the University’s Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants overseen by the EOC office and The Graduate School’s Parental Leave Policy?

I did not realize that I needed to submitted my request for parental leave to The Graduate School at least eight (8) weeks in advance of the anticipated birth or adoption date. Should I still submit the request?

I do not believe that I will need six (6) consecutive weeks of leave from my program. Do I need to take the full number of weeks?

What should I do if my child arrives early or late?

  1. This policy is meant to support students in the period immediately following the birth or adoption of their child. If applicable, an eligible graduate student may take leave immediately following the leave period of the other parent.
  2. Students who do not meet the eligibility requirements for leave under this policy may still be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations under the Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants. Students should contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office for more information.

APPROVED FOR: August 1, 2019