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Maternity Protection for Pregnant and Nursing Students

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The new German Maternity Protection Act (MuSchG) [de] came into effect on 1 January 2018. It applies not only to employed women but for the first time also to students, to the extent that they are required to attend a course or take an exami-nation at the university at a fixed place and time or are required to complete an internship as part of their course of study. In addition, the regulations of the law according to § 1 para. 4 MuSchG now apply to every person who is pregnant, has given birth to a child or is breastfeeding. Thus, in addition to cis women, the law also applies to trans* and intersex people.

The goal of the act is to protect the health of the student and her child at the place of studies during her pregnancy, after the birth of the child, and during the nursing period. At the same time, the act also aims to prevent the mother from experiencing disadvantages during her pregnancy, after the birth of her child, and during the nursing period.

Female students can apply for a leave of absence due to pregnancy 6 weeks before the due date.

A leave of absence due to maternity/parental leave can be applied for every semester until the child reaches the age of 3.

The most important provisions of the act for pregnant or nursing students are described in the following.



In the case of external internships, the employer for the purposes of the Maternity Protection Act is generally the institution with which the internship was arranged and therefore not the university.

Protective Measures and Protection Periods

The university may only permit a pregnant student to attend required courses and complete pass/fail or graded assessments in the last six weeks prior to delivery if the student has made an explicit declaration to the university that she wishes to do so and if her participation in such courses or assessments does not constitute an unjustifiable risk to the life of the mother and child.

The pregnant student may retract this declaration at any time with effect for the future. The expected date of delivery as specified on the medical certificate or the certificate from a midwife is taken as the basis for calculating the protection period before delivery. If the preg-nant student does not deliver the baby on the expected date of delivery, the protection period before delivery is reduced or extended accordingly.

The university may not allow the student to study again until a period of eight or twelve weeks has passed after delivery unless she declares explicitly to the university that she wishes to continue her studies in this period. She may also retract this declaration at any time with ef-fect for the future. The protection period after delivery is extended from eight to twelve weeks in the case of premature births or multiple births and if the child has been determined by a doctor to have a disability as defined by Section 2, Paragraph (1), Clause 1 of the ninth book of the German Social Security Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) before eight weeks have passed after the delivery. In the case of premature delivery, the protection period after delivery is generally extended by the amount of time the protection period before delivery was reduced only if the student so requests.

If the student wishes to attend courses or take examinations within the aforementioned pro-tection periods before or after delivery or before and after delivery or complete pass/fail as-sessments, she must declare that she wishes to do so. The declaration should be submitted to the Student Service Center, Sedanstraße 6, 79098 Freiburg.

If, on account of the result of the risk assessment performed in accordance with § 10 MuS-chG or a medical certificate as defined by § 16 MuSchG, the student has been issued a pro-hibition of employment that conflicts with this declaration, the declaration is ineffective for the purposes of maternity protection.

Prohibition of Night and Weekend Activities

Pregnant and nursing students may not engage in activities in the time between 8 and 10 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays, unless the following conditions have been met:

  1. The student provides her explicit consent.
  2. Her attendance at this time is necessary for study purposes.
  3. A unjustifiable risk for the expectant mother or for her child through lone working has been excluded.


The pregnant or nursing student may retract her declaration at any time with effect for the future.

This declaration should also be submitted to the Student Service Center, Sedanstraße 6, 79098 Freiburg.

Attendance at courses after 10 p.m. is not allowed in any case.

Measures for Maternity Protection Risk Assessment

The university is required under Section 10 of the Maternity Protection Act to assess what risks pregnant or nursing students or their children are or may be exposed to. The university must determine on the basis of this risk assessment whether and to what extent protective measures are to be taken.

Risks are possible particularly during activities in laboratories or workshops, in the study of medicine or dentistry, during field trips, during courses and internships held outdoors, during practical physical education courses, or during activities for teacher education and psycholo-gy degree programs involving contact with children and youths.

As soon as the university becomes aware of the pregnancy, it conducts an individual risk as-sessment to determine whether any of the courses or practical training the student will be re-quired to complete at the university during her pregnancy and while nursing her child would lead to an unjustifiable risk according to the criteria of the Maternity Protection Act. The risk assessment is conducted by the Office of Safety and the teachers of the respective courses.

Only in cases in which it is not possible to rearrange or reorganize the course or it is not possi-ble to rule out risks even by rearranging the conditions of the course is the university obligated to prohibit the student from participating in particular courses or practical training for the duration of her pregnancy or nursing period.

If the risk assessment leads to restrictions or prohibitions, the university meets with the stu-dent to discuss the further course of her studies with the explicit goal of counteracting any disadvantages she might experience in her education. The responsible faculty board/examination office and the university’s Office of Safety will arrange an appointment for this meeting with the student.

Further Advising Services

  • University of Freiburg Office of Safety
    (Work Safety, Biological Safety, and Radiation Protection)
    Frau Dr. Petra Markmeyer-Pieles, Phone 0761 2034204

Information on Maternity Protection

The Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth offers a summary of the most important aspects of maternity protection in its „Leitfaden zum Mutterschutz“ [de].

Notice of the Act

The university is legally obligated by § 26 MuSchG to post the act for students or make it available to them in printed or electronic form for their reference. Click here to view the cur-rent version of the Maternity Protection Act [de].