Maternity protection for pregnant & breastfeeding students

Are you pregnant, have recently given birth, are breastfeeding or planning to have a baby?

We will gladly help you cope with the host of new challenges with regard to your studies and to help you clarify your questions. While the Family Service provides general advice on the compatibility of study and family life (e.g. on financing and childcare issues), the Student Advisory Service supports you in the further planning of your studies.

There are a number of things to bear in mind here in relation to statutory maternity protection:

  • In addition to strengthening your rights (see 1.), the main issue is to protect you from hazards (see 3.) at your study 'workplace' (see 2.) from the beginning of your pregnancy until after delivery and during breastfeeding.
  • Your university must conduct generalised hazard assessments (see 5.) for all study courses. Should you decide (see 6.) to officially give notification of your pregnancy/breastfeeding (see 7.), your university must specify these assessments in concrete terms depending on the occasion as well as define corresponding protective measures (see 4.).
  • After an official notification, the university only informs (see 8.) the competent district government and the university members necessary for the procedure about your pregnancy/breastfeeding.

The following questions and answers provide you with an initial overview.

For further information and confidential advice, please contact the Student Advisory Service. Important note: Please pay particular attention to the information in questions 6-8 on giving notification of pregnancy/breastfeeding to the university. The Student Advisory Service will also be happy to inform you in advance and anonymously about the possible advantages and disadvantages of giving notification.

1. Why do I need a Maternity Protection Act as a student?

The Maternity Protection Act [in German only] aims to protect the health of all pregnant and breastfeeding students and their children and to counteract discrimination. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, this means for you on the one hand that your rights at the 'workplace' of your studies are strengthened.


Should you decide to officially give notification, you will be released from events e.g. for doctor's appointments or for breastfeeding, you will be entitled to facilities on campus to rest, lie down and breastfeed and, if necessary, examination dates will be rescheduled for you. On the other hand, the university as 'employer' must then protect you (and your child/ren) from hazards and take appropriate protective measures. This can also mean a ban on studying for individual courses (see question 4).

2. Which of my study events and activities does the law affect?

The 'workplace' includes study events for which the university 'prescribes the place, time and procedure on a compulsory basis' (see §1 para. 2 MuSchG). This also includes one-to-one lessons, LABs and projects as well as internships that are compulsory in the course of studies. If there is a cooperation agreement between the institution and Folkwang, the university is responsible for compliance with the statutory maternity protection, otherwise the internship place is.


Thus, not affected by the Maternity Protection Act are only completely voluntary events that are not included in the study course according to the examination regulations (e.g. participation in free lectures and sports programmes) and activities whose organisation you can determine yourself (e.g. self-study times such as individual practice or library visits).

3. What is considered hazardous for the purposes of maternity protection?

The health of pregnant and breastfeeding students (and their children) can be endangered in different ways during their studies. When assessing hazards, The Maternity Protection Act (Mutterschutzgesetz) differentiates between work time related, operational and medical health protection - with special regulations for the maternity protection periods (cf. section 2 'Health protection (Gesundheitsschutz)' MuSchG - in German only). The law thus concerns not only teaching, project and examination times and conditions, but also physical effects on students and their children, physical and psychological stress for them, as well as contact with chemical hazardous substances and biological agents.


If you are interested in the possible hazards of your studies, you can read the exact regulations in the text of the law (cf. §§3-16 MuSchG - in German only) and, on request, inspect the generalised hazard assessment for your study course at the Student Advisory Office.


Examples for hazards:

_In general, the noise limit of 80dB (A) is exceeded in all musical-practical courses.

_There is an increased risk of accidents, especially in dance and bodywork courses (e.g. by falling down).

_Danger from hazardous substances can sometimes occur in projects in the field of materials research (e.g. from mould); however, it also exists in the educational field due to the risk of infection when coming into contact with children and young people if your vaccination protection is not sufficient.

_Furthermore, the university may not allow you to work at all during pregnancy or breastfeeding, for example, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., as night work in this time window is generally classified as dangerous.

4. How are possible protective measures determined for me?

If a hazard is identified in one of your courses or internship activities, the university (or, if applicable, the institution providing the internship) must introduce appropriate protective measures in the following order of priority:


1. The hazard is to be eliminated by redesigning the conditions at your place of study or internship accordingly.

2. If this is not possible or the effort is demonstrably disproportionate, you are to be offered an alternative without hazards for the bindingly specified course or internship activity.

3. Only if (1.) and (2.) are not possible, you can be prohibited from participating in the event or internship activity without an alternative.

5. How are the hazard assessments for my studies created?

In addition to the general occupational health and safety assessment of the study conditions, the university must also identify the specific physical and psychological health hazards for all persons pregnant and breastfeeding (and their children) (cf. question 3). For each activity to which you (and your child/ren) are or may be exposed during pregnancy and breastfeeding in the context of compulsory events and examinations, Folkwang as your higher education institution must assess the hazards according to type, extent and duration. In order to assess the hazards, Folkwang has drawn up a generalised, occasion-independent hazard assessment (bundled by department) for each study course, which can be viewed at the Student Advisory Service on request.


As soon as you officially give notification to the university that you are pregnant or breastfeeding (cf. question 7), this generalised hazard assessment will be immediately concretised for your current study situation and the protective measures required for you will be determined (cf. question 4). This is coordinated by the Student Advisory Service, which is also available to answer your questions. The responsibility for your hazard assessments lies with the responsible dean or institute head, who can be advised by the university's company doctor and the occupational health and safety specialist, among others.

6. What is voluntary about this – and what obligatory?

Notification of pregnancy or breastfeeding to the university is generally voluntary for students. As a pregnant or breastfeeding student, it is your responsibility to decide whether you wish to take advantage of maternity protection or forego the protective measures that may be required.


As soon as you officially give notification of your pregnancy or breastfeeding (without applying for immediate leave of absence), Folkwang has the legal obligation to initiate a situation-dependent hazard assessment and the corresponding protective measures. The Student Advisory Service will be happy to advise you in advance and confidentially about the concrete consequences of an official notification.

7. When is the notfication of my pregnancy/breastfeeding official?

You officially notify Folkwang of your pregnancy or breastfeeding handing in the following form to the Student Advisory Service: Official notification of student pregnancy or breastfeeding [in German only].


In addition to the information required for this, you must submit a current timetable and proof of the date of delivery or the date of birth of your child(ren). If you would like an exception to the ban on 'overtime' or 'night work' between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (in accordance with §29 Para. 3.1 MuSchG), we also require a declaration of consent from you as well as a medical clearance certificate.


If, on the other hand, you only disclose your pregnancy or breastfeeding to lecturers or university staff, this is not yet considered an official notification to the university and the Maternity Protection Act does not apply. Therefore, confidential information and counselling sessions at the Family Service and the Student Advisory Service are also possible without this being associated with a notification.

8. And who will then be informed about my pregnancy/breastfeeding?

After receipt of the official notification of your pregnancy or breastfeeding, a confidential file with your details and evidence will be created and your current study situation will be checked on the basis of the generalised hazard assessment. You will only be allowed to continue attending events that are safe; for events that are questionable or unclear, the responsible dean/institute head must temporarily suspend you. At this point, all teachers named in the timetable will be informed by the dean/institute head about your additional rights as a pregnant or breastfeeding student.


In the event of a temporary suspension or leave of absence, you and the affected lecturers will also be informed that, due to the potential hazardous situation, you may no longer participate in the relevant events until further notice. As soon as possible, the dean/institute head must then prepare a situation-dependent hazard assessment and determine the necessary protective measures. The Student Advisory Service will inform you and the affected lecturers immediately about the result - as well as the responsible district government and, depending on the protective measure(s), the necessary administrative staff.


Your confidential file remains with the Student Advisory Service, which is also the contact person for changes to your timetable or childbirth date as well as for reporting the end of your pregnancy or breastfeeding period. Here you can get advice on organising your studies in a way that suits your situation and clarify any unanswered questions regarding maternity protection.