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Sickness guidance for doctoral students

If you are ill there is information here on who to inform, where to get medical advice and if you are entitled to any sick pay.

Illness here can refer to both physical and mental health. Whatever you are struggling with, and however long it may last, please know that you have support from your department and the university and please do keep in touch.

Staying in touch can be challenging when suffering from mental health difficulties but regular check-ins help the department support you as effectively as possible.

Register with a medical practice

You should make sure you register with the University Medical Centre or a local medical practice as soon as you begin your course, don't wait until you are ill. If you are unsure if you need to see a doctor or need advice when the Medical Centre is closed, if you are based in the UK, you can phone NHS 111 for advice.

What to do if you are ill

If you are ill and unable to study you should inform your supervisor as soon as possible even if you are studying at a distance. If your sickness absence extends or is likely to extend more than three days you should ensure your Head of Department is informed as per Regulations for Students.

If your sickness absence is likely to be long-term then you may need to take a break from your doctorate. There is guidance on how to suspend your studies. It is important to talk to your supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies to consider alternative adjustments or longer-term changes e.g. moving to part-time, getting a support network in place, and finding long-term treatment.

Sick pay if you are a funded student

If you are funded from a UKRI Training Grant, University Research Studentship or certain external sources you may be eligible to claim sick pay. For more information, contact your Supervisor, Doctoral College support contact or the Studentships Finance Office.

Sick pay if you are working

If you are employed as a teaching assistant or on another casual contract, hourly paid workers are not entitled to occupational or company sick pay but you may be able to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) after three waiting days and not withstanding personal tax allowances. It is important, therefore, that any sickness absence of an hourly paid worker is reported in good time for payroll purposes in order for any payments to be made.

I have an existing or new disability/long-term health condition

The Disability Service in Student Support provide study-related support for students with a range of conditions including but not limited to specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia), ADHD, mobility or sensory impairments, Autism Spectrum Conditions, long-term health conditions (e.g. diabetes) and mental health conditions. In the first instance, arrange a confidential appointment with the Disability Service to discuss the impact of your condition on your studies and what support you may be able to access. We would also encourage you to discuss how your disability/ long-term health condition affects your doctorate with your Supervisor(s).

The Disability Service will be able to have a confidential discussion with you to assess your needs and discuss additional support to be implemented and embedded in your doctorate. They can also advise you on additional funding for students with disabilities and long-term conditions such as Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) or University-based support and talk to you about different diagnostic routes if you feel you have an undiagnosed condition.

With your consent, the Disability Service can inform your Supervisor(s) about any additional support needs to enable them to better support you. The Disability Service will discuss any concerns with you and only share information agreed upon during your discussion.

Special arrangements for assessments (e.g. having support available, or needing a break during the viva) as well as ongoing study (e.g. adjustments to help you manage your condition) can be discussed and will be included in a Disability Access Plan to make arrangements easier to manage.


If you have any questions, please contact us.