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Sickness guidance for doctoral students

Information on who to inform if you are ill, where you can seek medical advice and if you are entitled to any sick pay.

Our sickness guidance covers both physical and mental health. Whatever you are going through and however long it lasts, please know you will be supported by your department and the University. And please do keep in touch.

We understand staying in touch can be challenging if you’re experiencing mental health difficulties, but regular check-ins will help the department support you as effectively as possible.

Register with a medical practice

It’s advisable to register with the University Medical Centre or a local medical practice as soon as you begin your course rather than waiting until you are ill. If you're unsure whether you need to see a doctor, or you need advice when the Medical Centre is closed, you can phone NHS 111 for advice (as long as you’re based in the UK when you call).

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’re 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 the Regulations for Students.

If you are likely to need a long-term sickness absence, you may need to take a break from your doctorate. We have guidance on how to suspend your studies. It’s important to talk to your supervisor and Director of Doctoral Studies to consider alternative adjustments or longer-term changes such as moving to part-time, getting a support network in place and finding long-term treatment.

Sick pay for funded students

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

Sick pay for hourly paid workers

If you’re employed as an hourly worker − as a teaching assistant or on another casual contract − you won't be entitled to occupational or company sick pay. However, you may eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) after three days. Therefore, as an hourly paid worker, it's important to report any sickness absence in good time for payroll purposes, in order for any payments to be made.

If you have an existing or new disability or long-term health condition

The Disability Service in Student Support provide study-related support for students with a range of conditions. These could include specific learning difficulties (such as dyslexia), ADHD, mobility or sensory impairments, Autism Spectrum Conditions, long-term health conditions (such as diabetes) and mental health conditions. You can 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 also encourage you to talk to your supervisor(s) about how your disability or long-term health condition affects your doctorate.

You can have a confidential discussion with the Disability Service 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 they will 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. They will discuss any concerns with you and only share information as mutually agreed during your discussion.

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


If you have any questions, please contact us.

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