Childbirth Accommodation and Parental Leave: School & Department FAQ

What is the difference between Childbirth Accommodation (CBA) and Parental Leave (PL)?

Childbirth Accommodation is available for full-time, registered graduate students who have recently given birth (“birth parent”). The birth parent receives up to two months of leave from academic and research work. It does not apply to adoption or to non-birth parents. Birth parents are also eligible for Parental Leave.

Parental Leave (established September 1, 2018) is available for eligible graduate students (see below) who have responsibilities for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them through adoption, foster care, or court order. It provides up to one month of leave from academic and research work.

A full-time, registered graduate student is eligible for Parental Leave per the following. They are:

  • 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.

Parental Leave must be taken within six months of the child’s birth, adoption, or placement with the student.

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

What is the impact of the Parental Leave (PL) policy for eligible graduate students?

Currently, graduate students who give birth (“birth parents”) are eligible for up to two months of Childbirth Accommodation (CBA). Parental Leave (PL) expands the policy so that all parents who have significant responsibilities for a newborn or a child newly placed with them (as above) are eligible for one month of leave from academic, research, and teaching responsibilities. If the student is currently supported by a RA, TA, or fellowship, the leave will be paid, as described below. Birth parents are also eligible for Parental Leave, bringing their total potential leave duration to three months.

Note: prior to the implementation of this policy, some schools and departments offered a third month of Childbirth Accommodation to their students who give birth. With this policy, this third month is classified as “Parental Leave” rather than an extension to Childbirth Accommodation, with no net change in benefits for birth parents in these areas.

How are these benefits funded?

The Childbirth Accommodation (CBA) Fund administered by OGE pays for tuition and stipend expenses related to the two months of paid leave for graduate students who give birth (birth parents) and are a Research or Teaching Assistant. The fund was set up in 2004 by the Dean’s Group for the purpose of supporting graduate student women who have RA/TA assignments to take up to eight weeks of maternity leave without putting an undue financial burden on individual departments.

Responsibility for funding the approved Parental Leave resides at the level of the academic department unless otherwise instructed by the respective School Dean’s Office. The five schools have different policies. Currently, the School of Science and the Sloan School are funding the Parental Leave benefit centrally from their respective Dean’s Office. The School of Architecture + Planning, School of Engineering, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences expect the student’s academic department to bear the expenses, except in cases of demonstrated financial hardship.

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 Director 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.

To learn more about how the CBA Fund operates, please email your questions to grad-ed@mit.edu.

To learn how the funding of the Parental Leave benefit is being handled in your School, please contact your department’s administrative officer and/or academic administrator directly.

May a PI charge a research grant(s) for the Parental Leave expense?

No. It would not be appropriate to charge a research grant for a student who is on leave from performing the duties to advance the research on the grant. Principal Investigators should consult their administrative officer and/or academic administrator for guidance on how the leave expenses will be funded.

As a course instructor, how do I handle grading with respect to a family leave?

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.

Why is offering family leaves important for MIT?

At the local level, having a consistent policy relieves advisors and supervisors from having to decide accommodations on an ad hoc basis. Further, the policy reflects MIT’s reflects our values to support work-life balance and our commitment to diversity across gender and family situations. Last but not least, the policy helps ensure that MIT remains competitive with peer institutions.