The Faculty of Science and Engineering is going to come up with an arrangement for PhD students who work with dangerous materials who get pregnant. They’re not allowed to work with certain materials, but they currently don’t get compensated for any time lost.
Health and safety regulations forbid pregnant women from working with materials that might harm their unborn child, not even to quickly finish up an experiment because of an upcoming deadline. This has led some PhD students to hide their pregnancy, said Marzia Nuzzolo during an FSE faculty council meeting.
Esther Marije Klop, the faculty board’s portfolio manager, acknowledges that things are currently poorly organised. The current policy is for people to check with their supervisor, she says. But people aren’t compensated for lost time, either.
Maternity leave only covers part of it: six weeks before the due date and ten weeks after. But pregnancy lasts approximately forty weeks, and is usually announced after a few months. Anyone who needs to be in the lab before maternity leave kicks in is out of luck.
Nuzzolo says supervisors should not be responsible for the decision, because this could lead to discrimination, such as women not being hired to prevent issues with pregnant employees. They can’t go to the Graduate School, either; they say pregnancy is a life choice and that the students themselves are responsible, says Nuzzolo.
Klop says that’s not okay, either. ‘Sometimes people just get pregnant. We have no say in a person’s family planning.’ She will talk to the Graduate School and the institutes about a new policy. It shouldn’t take long, she thinks. ‘After all, there aren’t that many pregnant women who work in the chemical labs.’ She thinks it will all be taken care of after the summer.