How do I support my PhD student?

How do I support my student through pregnancy and maternity leave?


Students are entitled to to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. Research students who are funded by a Research Council are entitled to 6 months paid maternity leave, and up to a further 6 months unpaid maternity leave.

Each funding body will have their own criteria regarding maternity leave; is therefore wise to confirm as early as possible what funding is available to your student.

When a female PhD student informs you, as her supervisor or personal tutor, of her pregnancy; you need to be aware that by offering the appropriate level of support to her at different stages during the pregnancy, you will be helping her to successfully combine her PhD study with having a child. The University is committed to being as flexible as possible to ensure that no student is disadvantaged due to pregnancy or maternity, whilst ensuring academic standard are not compromised.

What can I do to help?

Before maternity leave

  • Carry out a risk assessment to ensure your student's safety. This is particularly relevant in some departments where the individual may be exposed to harmful substances
  • Consider any changes to workload that may need to be accommodated, either due to being unsafe or to ease arduous workloads
  • Be flexible - there will be medical appointments that she may need to attend. Work with her to plan her workload so these appointments don't conflict with important events
  • Discuss with your student the dates and duration of her maternity leave and make plans to help manage her workload on her return
  • Discuss your student's plans for return - is flexible working something that needs to be considered?

During maternity leave

  • Encourage your research student to contact Research and Innovation Services for support and advice when returning to study
  • Keep her up to date with departmental news and research activity
  • Confirm plans for return to work

Returning from maternity leave

  • Encourage your student to make the most of the informal support networks around her - for example, colleagues who have been in a similar position
  • Be flexible - your student may find she suffers from fatigue more easily
  • Go over her planned workload with her and make sure she is comfortable with it
  • Seek to understand childcare arrangements