pamspam
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Hello. I'm looking for a bit of advice - I've been working for a few years since I graduated, but have applied and been accepted for a funded (UK Research Council) PhD at my dream University. It's a really interesting topic, and would be a great opportunity. However I would be 27 at the start, so between 30 - 31 by the time I'd completed it. My main concern, is that I really would like to start a family soon and obviously accepting this would affect these plans:
- Has anyone got any experience of taking maternity leave during a PhD?
- Is it likely I could get financial funding / stipend maternity pay, or would I have no income if I became pregnant?
- Is this a bad time to take a break from my career, given I also would likely want to work part time after having a baby? Would I struggle to find a job after my PhD under this situation.

Any advice / experience you could share would be very much appreciated! Thank you!
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by pamspam)
Hello. I'm looking for a bit of advice - I've been working for a few years since I graduated, but have applied and been accepted for a funded (UK Research Council) PhD at my dream University. It's a really interesting topic, and would be a great opportunity. However I would be 27 at the start, so between 30 - 31 by the time I'd completed it. My main concern, is that I really would like to start a family soon and obviously accepting this would affect these plans:
- Has anyone got any experience of taking maternity leave during a PhD?
- Is it likely I could get financial funding / stipend maternity pay, or would I have no income if I became pregnant?
- Is this a bad time to take a break from my career, given I also would likely want to work part time after having a baby? Would I struggle to find a job after my PhD under this situation.

Any advice / experience you could share would be very much appreciated! Thank you!
From my experience of supporting students, taking a "short" break for medical reasons (not pregnancy) of up to 12 weeks is ok, there is a financial provision for this in RCUK PhD funding, but once that money is gone, that's it, there is nothing "extra" or automatic to support something like extended maternity leave. PhD funding is simply not configured that way, and odds are you supervisor wont have access to a "magic" pot of money. The university would give you an extended "interruption of study" break for your maternity leave, the admin is pretty simple, but they won't be able to fund it from UKRI. Now the university itself might have some hardship funds but that's a much bigger risk. I think you would also find it tough to get back to serious research with a new baby in hand, it's possible, but (from experience) a newborn is a huge amount of work and can leave you completely knackered for months on end, they are hard to plan arround as they wont stick the the schedule you might like.
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Evaaeri
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Pregnancy discrimination is illegal so the uni will have to make sure you have time off to do your maternity. As maternity leave is not illness it doesn’t count towards attendance and cannot be used as a basis of disciplinary. If your uni suggest this just ask for this in writing. The tribunal will kick their ass.
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Evaaeri)
Pregnancy discrimination is illegal so the uni will have to make sure you have time off to do your maternity. As maternity leave is not illness it doesn’t count towards attendance and cannot be used as a basis of disciplinary. If your uni suggest this just ask for this in writing. The tribunal will kick their ass.
As stated above, taking time away from a PhD for a well defined medical reason is fine, and no University would argue against that BUT the PhD funding package is strictly finite. PhD students are not classed as employees so employment law does not apply, you do not get maternity leave or pay. Once your limited “stop gap” funding is gone, it’s gone. That’s not pregnancy discrimination, it’s a financial restriction which flows directly from UK Government to Research Council rules and then on to Universities.
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Evaaeri
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Interesting, but can’t the finding be stopped for the maternity and resumed when the student is back? I still think it’s discrimination as this situation wouldn’t take place of the student was male.
I totally trust you when you say that PHD students are not employees but I’m not sure that protection from discrimination applies only to employment. Pregnancy is a protected characteristic just like race or age so Id hope for the protection to extend to all areas of life, not just employment. It’s very interesting from the legal POV, but I’m not a lawyer so I cannot comment. Whatever the answer is I hope that the OP will be able to get a break and hopefully the answer she wants/needs.
Last edited by Evaaeri; 3 days ago
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Evaaeri)
Interesting, but can’t the finding be stopped for the maternity and resumed when the student is back? I still think it’s discrimination as this situation wouldn’t take place of the student was male.
I totally trust you when you say that PHD students are not employees but I’m not sure that protection from discrimination applies only to employment. Pregnancy is a protected characteristic just like race or age so Id hope for the protection to extend to all areas of life, not just employment. It’s very interesting from the legal POV, but I’m not a lawyer so I cannot comment. Whatever the answer is I hope that the OP will be able to get a break and hopefully the answer she wants/needs.
If a male student takes more than 12 weeks medical break on an EPSRC DTA award for example, the support money simply runs out. In that sense its perfectly “fair” to both men and women equally, though of course individually it will feel anything but if you get hit by a serious illness. Yes, funding can generally be interrupted and re-started later on if you put a student on IOS – but the student then gets no financial support (other than the 12 weeks max – that will likely be funder dependent) and won’t be insured for lab access etc so they are “on their own” during the break.
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Evaaeri
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
If a male student takes more than 12 weeks medical break on an EPSRC DTA award for example, the support money simply runs out. In that sense its perfectly “fair” to both men and women equally, though of course individually it will feel anything but if you get hit by a serious illness. Yes, funding can generally be interrupted and re-started later on if you put a student on IOS – but the student then gets no financial support (other than the 12 weeks max – that will likely be funder dependent) and won’t be insured for lab access etc so they are “on their own” during the break.
Thanks for explaining this x
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Evaaeri
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I've done some digging on the website of my uni (Oxford) and pregnancy doesn't have to change your funding. Find pregnancy policy of your uni and see where you stand, but in the UK pregnancy is protected and you won't be penalised even though there is a lot of misinformation and people think you will. The following link talks about postponing funding etc so that you can complete your maternity leave. As for maternity pay you can qualify for maternity allowance which you can claim back from the government. It's not generous (£600 a month for 33 weeks) but it's more than nothing.

https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/welfar...studentsupport
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brokenbiscuits
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I work in a UKRI funded CDT at a university. This is from the UKRI training grant terms and conditions, hope it helps:

UKRI funded Students are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave if the expected week
of childbirth will occur during the period of their award. The earliest Maternity leave can
commence is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. The first 26 weeks should
be paid at full stipend rate, pro-rated as necessary for part time Students. The following 13 weeks should be paid at a level commensurate with statutory maternity pay. The final 13 weeks are not paid. Partners are entitled to up to two weeks paid Ordinary Paternity Leave on full stipend. Ordinary Paternity Leave cannot start before the birth and must end within 56 days of the birth.
Partners are also entitled to an extended period of unpaid parental leave, up to a
maximum of 50 weeks, with their studentship extended accordingly. Unpaid parental
leave must be completed within 12 months of the birth of the child. This leave may be
taken in up to three blocks of leave or all at once. Adoption leave should be granted on
the same basis as maternity leave. There is no qualifying period for maternity, paternity
or adoption leave. Additionally, their Studentship end date should be updated to reflect the period of leave.
Last edited by brokenbiscuits; 5 hours ago
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