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PhD student mat leave and allowance

(7 Posts)
ElsieMay123 Fri 06-Oct-17 09:01:12

Hello, trying to find advice for my slightly unusual circumstances, but hoping someone has been there and done that to share some experience.

I was working part-time from January to September this year (for 35 weeks). I started a PhD last month, funded with a stipend (over minimum wage, so not too bad) which is classed as non-taxable income. I am going through the questions on www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents and I don't know if I am employed or not. According to the University I am not considered an employee, but I DO have an income. It's so confusing. I think will be entitled to mat allowance from whenever my mat leave starts?

The University is saying that they will continue my (NERC funded) stipend payments for 6 months of mat leave, but that they payment will come out of the total 'pot' of funding, so that I will not get anything for the final 6 months (which sounds nonsense to now I write it, as that's the same as not giving anything and potentially makes me worse off, will question that).

I would like to make sure that I get stipend/benefits that I am entitled to, but not take the piss. Because people don't often find themselves in this situation it has been really hard to find anyone to give me solid advice, they try to help but come back with a 'hmmm, not sure'. Any suggestions gratefully received!

MujosMama Fri 06-Oct-17 09:27:21

Hiya congratulations on your pregnancy! smile I haven't been in your exact situation but I did complete a tax self assessment during my PhD so I know your stipend definitely does not count as "income" for this purpose. You're technically still in full time education so you're NI record should be intact though.

I think the only support you're entitled to would be the maternity allowance from the government, however in order to qualify for that you have to earn (through working, not through your stipend) a minimum of £30 a week for at least 26 weeks in the 66 before your baby is due. During my PhD I did a lot of teaching and marking work through my department and was paid by them for that, perhaps you can look at doing something similar if you don't already, or if you do the maths you may have casual earnings recently enough to fall within the 66 week cutoff?

The other option, as NERC are not going to pay you anything additional, is to talk to your university HR department. Although you're not technically an employee they may have a policy that treats you as such, and you may get statutory pay through them.

Good luck!

moggle Fri 06-Oct-17 10:37:55

When I was doing my PhD another woman working in the same dept was pregnant partway through her MRC funded PhD, she had to talk to them on an individual basis as they didn't have a policy for maternity leave. I think they did give her some extra months of stipend and then a few months unpaid for the rest of the leave she wanted to take, but this didn't affect her overall stipend entitlement, it just started back up again when she came back.
There are some 'women in academia' type bursaries etc which it might be worth looking into, if NERC / your uni will not be moved at all.

ElsieMay123 Fri 06-Oct-17 10:55:16

Thanks for the replies. After posting I thought 'that can't be right' and it wasn't. I have since found RCUK documentation (that NERC falls under) that was revised in August 2017 and states there there is an allowance of 6 months at full stipend, 3 months at ~41% and then 3 months unpaid. The entitlement has to be on top of the full period of funding, not taken out of it as I was told, which makes more sense as otherwise it would mean having to get the work done in less than 3 years (with a tiny baby in tow, hahahha) or work for nothing at the end.

So that's something to stop worrying about at least, now just got to panic about everything else! confused

ElsieMay123 Fri 06-Oct-17 10:59:14

MujosMama and moggle any hot tips on staying sane whilst studying and becoming a mum? My usual go to answer for handling most dilemmas is out of bounds right now wine

moggle Fri 06-Oct-17 11:17:12

Sorry my acquaintance wasn't a very good example, she never finished her PhD ... this was after starting and failing to finish a PhD in her degree subject ... So probably nothing to do with having a baby!

That's a great allowance for them to give you. I'm glad they've formalised it and sounds like your timing was good if it has potentially only been in place for a month or so! Will be great if your uni has subsidised childcare too!!?!!!

Zorra Sat 07-Oct-17 19:35:50

If you're on Facebook join the PhD and early careers parents group: there's 2, look for the one with more members. I started my PhD the same month my second child was born (4 years ago...) and that group has been a life saver!

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