Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

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Students and the Maternity Protection Act

The Maternity Protection Act applies to all women who are employed. As an employer, RWTH must adhere to the maternity leave guidelines for women who are employed or doing an internship at the University.

Since January 1, 2018, the Maternity Protection Act also applies to students if the institution, here: RWTH, specifies the place, time, and process of the courses. It also applies if students are required to complete a mandatory internship as part of their university course. These regulations are stipulated in Section 1, Para. 2, No. 8 of the Maternity Protection Act – MuSchG.

You can find further information on the current Maternity Protection Act on the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth – BMFSFJ website and in the current guidelines.

Announcing Pregnancy

In principle, students announce they are pregnant or breastfeeding on a voluntary basis.

According to Section 15, Para. 1 of the Maternity Protection Act, students should inform the University of their pregnancy and due date as soon as this is established. Further, they should inform the University promptly if they are breastfeeding.

In accordance with the protection provisions of the Maternity Protection Act, we can only advise you individually and protect you from possible risks during your studies if you announce your pregnancy early on. Please contact the Registrar’s Office directly for these matters. The Registrar’s Office uses this form to record the information. Please include suitable proof, for example a copy of your maternity card, a medical certificate, or a certificate from a midwife. To announce your pregnancy, the Registrar’s Office will then fill out this form.

The Registrar’s Office will then inform the Occupational and Radiation Protection Staff Unit at RWTH and the Cologne District Government. The University is obliged to do the following according to Section 27 of the Maternity Protection Act: forward the name of the pregnant or breastfeeding student, the pregnancy and the due date, as well as the result of the risk assessment, detailed below, to the Cologne District Government. This information will be treated confidentially and may not be passed on to third parties without express authorization.

Students at the Faculty of Medicine can find additional information, in German, on the Faculty's website. We recommend you contact the coordinator for your cohort.

Please note that if you have a work contract, for example as a student assistant, you should also inform your employer about your pregnancy so that the protective provisions of the Maternity Protection Act can apply.

Risk Assessment

Once you have informed the University of your pregnancy or the fact that you are breastfeeding, a risk assessment will be carried out in order to protect you as best as possible from any possible dangers and to arrange appropriate protective measures. This is in accordance with Section 10, Para. 2 of the Maternity Protection Act. Dr. Wolf and Ms. Delavarian from the Occupational Safety and Radiation Protection Staff Unit are responsible for this. You also have the opportunity to seek advice there on whether further measures to adapt your working conditions are possible or recommended.

Exams and Courses

It is for you to decide whether you would like to take part in a course or an examination.

If you decide to do so while on maternity leave, this is usually possible from the perspective of study and examination law. Please note, however, that for certain courses or exams, the extent of your participation may be limited or not at all possible due to the associated risks for you or your child, for example biology or chemistry practicals where hazardous substances have to be used.

For compulsory courses and examinations, you can waive the requirement to take maternity leave before and after childbirth, since these are not binding for you. Maternity leave usually lasts six or eight weeks – for exceptions, please consult the Maternity Protection Act. You may continue actively studying if you expressly declare this to the university.

If you register for an examination or appear for an examination, you are implicitly expressing your intention to waive the period of maternity leave for this examination and no written declaration is required. You can revoke this declaration at any time for future exams, but not retroactively.

Due to the pregnancy, you may also de-register from an examination until the day of the examination, i.e. until the morning before the start of the examination.

You may decide if you would like to participate in voluntary courses and examinations for such courses and may therefore do so without providing a further declaration.

Pregnant and breastfeeding students are generally not allowed to work at the university from 10pm to 6am. During the period from 8pm to 10pm and on Sundays and public holidays, pregnant or breastfeeding students may only work if:

  1. they have expressly agreed to,
  2. it is necessary for their studies,
  3. it does not pose a risk to the pregnant woman or the child.

For work on Sundays and public holidays, students are granted an alternative day of rest in the week where they are guaranteed an uninterrupted night's rest of at least 11 hours.

You can revoke the declaration according to No. 1 at any time with effect for the future.

If you have any questions regarding changes to the curriculum, please contact your departmental advisor, or, for students at the Faculty of Medicine, you should contact your cohort coordinator.

Semester Leave

During pregnancy and for the care of a child who is not of school age, parents can apply for up to six semesters of leave per child. If both parents wish to take leave, they must divide these six semesters between themselves.
According to Section 48, Para. 5 Hochschulgesetz – Higher Education Act, it is also possible for parents to take exams during the semester of leave.

Please note that no BAföG is paid for semesters of leave, however you may still use the bus and train ticket during the semester.

Family Card

RWTH students with children can apply for a family card at the Registrar’s Office. This card is intended to help students balance family and student life better. Parents with this card are given preferential consideration when choosing courses. You can also use the card to apply for a childcare allowance at the Family Service of the Equal Opportunities Office. On the Family Card page you will find information on how to apply and on the offers of relief associated with the family card.

Advising Services

If you have any further questions about pregnancy and parenthood during your studies, you can contact the Family Service of the Equal Opportunities Office or the Student Advice Center. Students at the Faculty of Medicine can contact their cohort coordinator, while all other students can contact their relevant departmental advisor.