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Pregnancy, maternity and paternity leave

If you have a student support role you may be approached by students about pregnancy, maternity or paternity leave. When advising or supporting students you will wish to help them make careful consideration of their circumstances and the possible options with the aim of enabling them to make the right decision for them, including continuing with their studies.

You should not attempt to influence a student's decision or assume that the pregnancy is unwanted or unplanned. Try to be sensitive to the student in what could be a very traumatic, confusing time for them.  Students may decide not to proceed with their pregnancy, or may suffer a miscarriage or other complications.  In such cases they may need to take time off from their studies in order to receive medical treatment or to rest and recover.

Of course, every case will be unique but some of the options to consider include:

  • Supporting the student’s application for an interruption to study for a set amount of time, as set out in the University’s Interruptions Principles, for the birth and a period of time afterwards;
  • Giving the student permission for absences for medical appointments related to the pregnancy and ensuring that the student is allowed to catch up on missed work;
  • Allowing some flexibility in terms of assignment deadlines in the event of the student’s circumstances making it difficult for set deadlines to be met, subject to the University’s Mitigating Circumstances Policy;
  • In cases where a student misses set examinations unexpectedly due to pregnancy or the timing of the baby’s birth, giving consideration to allowing resit examinations to be treated as first attempts, subject to the agreement of the Examination Board and the Mitigating Circumstances Policy;
  • Providing support to enable the student to return to their studies following the period after the baby is born.
  • Schools may find the Student Support Form a useful guide to discussion when making arrangements and adjustments during a student's pregnancy and/or maternity.

There must be a balance between ensuring the student is not disadvantaged while, at the same time, not giving undue special treatment which could compromise the academic standard of the programme on which the student is studying.

The University is not obliged to agree to every request made in relation to interruptions and other arrangements but efforts should be made to meet reasonable requests. If a request is refused, the reasons for the refusal should be given to the student in writing.

In cases where specific arrangements are required for a student who has already been granted additional support arrangements (for example, on the grounds of a disability), the arrangements in relation to maternity/caring responsibilities should be kept separate so that it is clear which arrangements relate to which particular circumstances.

This ensures that these arrangements are in place for the required amount of time and also ensures adherence to the different pieces of legislation.

For further information with regards to the above, contact the Equality and Diversity Office at:

For further information about additional support arrangements for students with a disability, contact the Disability Support Office at:

The Equality Challenge Unit has produced a document, 'Student pregnancy and maternity: implications for higher education institutions' which you may find useful.

Students may wish to get in touch with other students who are parents for information and advice. There is a Facebook group for student parents and carers which can be found here.