Taking leave from research

Here is a step-by-step guide for researchers on to what to do if you need to take a period of family leave or leave due to mental or physical illness. 

Introduction to taking leave

At Alzheimer's Society, we are committed to providing the flexibility and support that our funded researchers need to be able to look after themselves and their families, whilst flourishing as researchers.

Alzheimer's Society has a long track record of supporting dementia researchers. We've been funding research fellows for over 25 years and we established our Dementia Research Leaders Programme in 2014 to reaffirm our commitment to supporting the careers of dementia researchers through funding and development opportunities.

Providing support to our researchers

One of the key principles of our Dementia Research Leaders programme is inclusivity - ensuring our funding opportunities are accessible to a wide range of applicants.

We know that it can be challenging to balance a research career with a home life. Juggling new additions to your family, or issues such as long term illness, can sometimes seem like obstacles to success. This can be particularly the case for Ph.D. students who often lack employee rights. That is why we offer paid family and sick leave to PhD students, although we are one of few funders in the UK who do so.

We also discovered how difficult it is to get clear information and guidance on leave and pay at any stage of a research career. We have pulled together a wide set of resources from a step by step guide to requesting leave to options for returning to research after a career break including our partnership with the Daphne Jackson Trust.

What should you do if you need to take a period of family leave or sick leave?

1. Speak to the HR or student services department and your supervisor at your University. 

They will be able to tell you what you are entitled to. At Alzheimer's Society our leave policy for funded Ph.D. students entitles you to family or sick leave and pay. To organise leave during your Ph.D. you will need to apply by speaking to your student services department and supervisor to request to suspend your studies. This usually means that you won't need to pay any fees during your leave.

If you are a post-doctoral researcher your HR department and line manager will be able to put this process in place. In general, as a post-doc you are a full-time contracted employee of a university or research institute, and you will be entitled to family or sick leave and pay. This is dependent on the end of your contract being further away than the predicted end of your period of leave.

2. Check with your funding body. 

Speak to our grants team to let us know that you will be taking a period of leave from your Ph.D., post-doc, fellowship or project grant and we'll sort out the rest to support you until your return to research. We will also be able to tell you whether you are entitled to a research assistant to cover the period of leave or to receive a no-cost extension of your grant.

If you are a Ph.D. student who is not funded by the Society your funder may view you as ineligible for Statutory Maternity Pay as Ph.D. students are rarely given full employee rights. In this case, it is still worth checking with your university as they may have their own programmes in place to help to support you. 

If you have contributed to national insurance for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before your baby is born, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.

3. Be aware that you may need to give notice of when you plan to return.

At the Society, seven working days notice ahead of your return is sufficient for us to put you back on our records. You may need to give your university or research institute a month or more of notice, it is important that you confirm this with them ahead of time. Citizens Advice have further information on this.

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