Graduate Student Parental Leave Policy
Regarding leave period, tuition, stipend support, health benefits, TA/RA support, and time-to-degree extensions
APPROVED ON: 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.
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
Eligible graduate students, once approved, will receive the following:
- Six (6) consecutive weeks of leave from their program for parental bonding and childcare responsibilities immediately following the birth or adoption of a child. In the event the other parent is taking leave immediately following the birth or adoption, a student may take six (6) consecutive weeks of leave immediately following the end of the other parent’s leave. Appropriate documentation may be required for such sequential leave periods. If both parents are eligible graduate students, each is entitled to the six week period of leave, and the leaves may be taken simultaneously or immediately sequentially.
- Entitlement to a one-academic semester extension beyond the 5-year time-to-degree master’s limit or the 8-year time-to-degree doctoral limit for all academic responsibilities. The student should complete and submit the standard extension request form to The Graduate School well in advance of their time-to-degree limit should this option be necessary, specifically noting when the parental leave was taken.
- Eligible graduate students who are approved for parental leave will continue to be enrolled and retain their current level of funding.
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.
The Accommodations Policy 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 Accommodations Policy 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.
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.
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 Accommodations Policy. 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
- The Graduate School’s Leave of Absence policy (masters students)
- The Graduate School’s Leave of Absence policy (doctoral students)
- University’s Medical Withdrawal process (as initiated by Campus Health Services or Counseling and Psychological Services)
- University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct
- EOC Accommodations Policy and Process
- Family Medical Leave Act (with policies administered through the University’s HR office for eligible employees)
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Policy on Accommodations
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Procedure for Accommodations
Frequently Asked Questions
I just found out that I am birthing or adopting a child. What should I do first?
- Consult with the EOC office for accommodations during the pregnancy and in the immediate post-partum period.
- Communicate with your course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators regarding the timing of your pregnancy or adoption so that you can discuss coursework completion, rearrange teaching duties (as applicable for TAs), and/or adjust laboratory or other research schedules (as applicable for RAs).
- Submit your request for parental leave to The Graduate School at least eight (8) weeks in advance of the anticipated birth or adoption date.
- Review the resources available to pregnant and parenting students on the EOC website, including the Carolina Women’s Center and Transportation and Parking.
- NOTE: The EOC encourages faculty to allow students to take short-term absences for responsibilities pertaining to parenting, including caring for their child during the child’s injury or illness, attending medical, mental health, or dental appointments for their child, and meeting with their child’s teacher or school administrator. Such requests will be addressed in accordance with the Policy on University Approved Absences and must be addressed without regard to the student’s sex or gender. Students should engage in open and regular communication with faculty to address situations and options as appropriate.
There are so many offices and resources on campus. What offices should I contact?
- EOC: Academic accommodations during the pregnancy and in the immediate post-partum period
- The Graduate School: Six (6) consecutive weeks of leave following birth or adoption, post-birth or post-adoption support for TAs/RAs
- Carolina Women’s Center: Information about healthcare, lactation, and caregiver resources
- International Student and Scholar Services: Information about visa issues and applicable regulations
- University Benefits Office: Information about leave available under the Family and Medical Leave Act for students who are primarily classified as University employees.
What is the difference between the University’s Accommodations Policy overseen by the EOC office and The Graduate School’s Parental Leave Policy?
- The University’s Policy on Pregnant and Parenting Students and Applicants covers all students and relates to federal requirements for academic accommodations during pregnancy and the immediate post-partum period.
- The Graduate School’s Parental Leave Policy provides broader support for parenting graduate students and applies to the immediate post-partum period or the immediate post-adoption period.
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?
- Yes. Submit the request as soon as possible. The planning period and the request submission are to ensure that you are in consultation with your course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators well in advance of the anticipated birth or adoption. In addition, the request submission is important should you need to request the one-academic semester extension.
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?
- No. The six (6) consecutive weeks is the maximum number of weeks eligible and approved students receive. You can submit the request for less than six (6) consecutive weeks. Regardless of how many weeks you request, you should plan accordingly with your course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators.
What should I do if my child arrives early or late?
- Communicate with your course faculty, advisor(s), and program administrators as soon as possible regarding any changes to the timing of your pregnancy or adoption so that you can discuss coursework completion, rearrange teaching duties (as applicable for TAs), and/or adjust laboratory or other research schedules (as applicable for RAs).
- Communicate your updated timeline to The Graduate School as soon as possible so that your approved leave period can be adjusted appropriately.
What if I have further questions?
- Contact Laura Thorp, Director of Student Affairs with any additional questions.
- 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.
- Students who do not meet the eligibility requirements for leave under this policy may still be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations through the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office. For information about pregnancy accommodations, please visit EOC Office Accommodations Policy and Process or reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
APPROVED ON: August 1, 2019